As I am writing this article on August 23rd, Canada is in what appears to be the early stages of a fourth wave. The latest national 7-day average of 2,216 new cases reported daily (Aug 13-19) is an increase of 38% over the previous week. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 648 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period, which is 22% higher than the previous week. (Stats reported August 20th by The Public Health Agency of Canada)
On a side note, the vast majority of positive covid cases and hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people. If you are able to be vaccinated, and have yet to do so, I strongly encourage you to make your appointment to begin the process of being double vaccinated! This is the best way to protect yourself and those around you!
As we enter the 4th wave, we must ensure we protect the rights and needs of our essential workforce, which includes the men and women who have been rolling up and down the highway from day one of this pandemic, to ensure our essential needs and services continue to be delivered uninterrupted. These professionals have a tough job, and while these drivers have been praised and recognized like never before, finally getting the recognition and praise that was long overdue, at the same time they had to endure being denied access to clean washroom facilities while out on the road. In addition, many cross-border drivers have been denied access to essential services such as doctors, dentist, and eye doctors’ appointments because they had been out of the country in the previous 14 days. Imagine being denied access for your essential needs as a result of ensuring the rest of the country continued to receive theirs! Industry associations, governments, and public health agencies have done great work spreading the word to improve access to these services for drivers over time, and for the most part, drivers have been able to gain access to these appointments again. Despite this, don’t think the problem has gone away, as it is still an issue for many drivers.
I recently spoke to a Cross Border Truck driver who was denied access to an Ontario Eye Clinic as he answered yes to being out of the country in the last 14 days question that was part of his pre-entry screening. The driver explained it was essential travel for his job, it was allowed by the gov’t, and that he was double vaccinated. He was still turned away and was told to come back when he had not been out of country for 14 days. In order to meet the requirements to be allowed access, this driver, and many others, would need to take 2 weeks off of work each time they needed to access a service that they require, not just to ensure their own health, but in many cases, it is also required to maintain the drivers license they need to continue working and providing an essential service.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident and has occurred frequently since the beginning of the pandemic.
In this case, I reached out to the College of Optometrists of Ontario to see what their policy was on essential cross border workers. The below is the guidance they provide to their eye doctors:
Travel outside of Canada within 14 days remains a positive screening result for COVID. For these individuals, the first considerations should be
- can the appointment be deferred,
- can care be provided using telehealth, or
- is there a 14-day window when the patient will not be traveling that may allow for scheduling and a negative screening result.
If none of the above options are feasible, then optometrists should consider
- scheduling the patient in-person and with use of additional PPE (prescribed by the Ministry’sOperational Requirements: Health Sector Restart 12), i.e., isolation gown and gloves, in addition to surgical/procedure mask and eye protection, or
- referral to an ophthalmologist or optometrist with the above PPE
Ultimately it is up to each office to determine how they wish to proceed with cross border workers.
I appreciated the reply, and we fully believe that no refusals of service are being done out of malice. We believe it is simply occurring out of a fear of catching Covid-19, and to ensure they are protecting themselves and their staff from the virus. We also believe a fair and equitable compromise can be reached. Communication and understanding everyone’s situation we believe is key. As we have said from the start, we are all in this together! This means we must ensure everyone has access to the services they need, in a safe and equal manner!
If you have been denied access to a medical appointment, please feel free to reach back to me at email@example.com with the details and we will ensure we continue to raise these issues with the appropriate personnel to ensure continued awareness of these issues. From everyone at the PMTC, thank you drivers for all you do!