Dialogue Volume 13 Issue 3 2017 - Page 19


Obligations in Health Emergencies , Disasters

Feedback wanted for policy

When a disaster strikes or a public health emergency hits , the public relies on physicians to provide medical services . A draft policy articulating specific expectations for physicians during such circumstances is now open for your feedback . The current policy on the issue was developed in preparation for an anticipated H1N1 pandemic and was approved by Council in 2009 . The newly titled Physician Services During Disasters and Public Health Emergencies draft policy retains much of the content of the current policy . However , there are important clarifications in the updated draft . For example , during the preliminary consultation , several respondents with experience providing care in past health emergencies stated that in those situations , the profession as a whole was not as engaged in supporting front-line physicians as it could have been . It was suggested the new draft policy highlight options for physicians who might not be able to provide direct care to patients but who have the capacity to provide physician services in other ways . This may include taking on administrative support roles or temporarily expanding the capacity of one ’ s practice to offset the increased strain on physician resources . The draft also clarifies that physicians can practise outside of their scope of practice during disasters and / or public health emergencies : if the medical care needed is urgent ; a more skilled physician is not available ; and not providing medical care may result in greater risk or harm to the patient or public than providing it .

Three things to know about the draft policy :
1 The expectations apply to all physicians , regardless of specialty or practice setting .
2 Physicians must provide services , although it need not be limited to direct care to people in need .
3 The nature of the disaster or public health emergency may require physicians to temporarily practise outside one ’ s scope of practice MD
ISSUE 3 , 2017 DIALOGUE 19