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Further action to address the spread of COVID-19 misinformation by physicians

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COVID-19, October Messenger 2021, Physician Assistants, Physicians | Posted October 14, 2021
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CPSA is very concerned by the increase in physicians reportedly violating CPSA’s Standards of Practice, the Canadian Medical Association’s Code of Ethics and Professionalism, and provincial public health measures in their handling of COVID-19. Because we have seen a significant increase in the number of concerns submitted, CPSA will be taking further action to address the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, inappropriate prescribing and inappropriate issuance of vaccine and mask exemptions by physicians.

CPSA recognizes that the vast majority of physicians are practising safe, evidence-based medicine, following public health measures and doing right by their patients. For this, we thank you and are grateful for your efforts.

While these situations are expected to be rare, Part 3.1 of the Health Professions Act provides CPSA the authority to conduct unannounced on-site clinic inspections to confirm adherence to CPSA’s Standards of Practice when certain thresholds are reportedly breached. An on-site inspection may occur when—but is not limited to—allegations arise of inappropriate issuance of COVID-19 vaccine and/or mask exemption letters, prescribing inappropriate interventions, such as ivermectin, for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and spreading of misinformation related to COVID-19.

Inspection reports will determine next steps, which may include referral to CPSA’s Continuing Competence team, or to the Professional Conduct department in cases where allegations of unprofessional conduct are supported. Should a physician refuse an on-site inspection, CPSA has the authority to apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for a court order to move forward with the inspection.

In situations where blatant evidence is present—such as video recordings or screen shots of social media messages where physicians publicly attack other physicians and health professionals or egregiously spread misinformation—physicians will be directly referred to Professional Conduct.

We understand this further action may be a cause for concern for some physicians who are practising good, safe and evidence-based medicine. This notice is not to be interpreted a moratorium on the issuance of vaccine and mask exemptions, rather, it is a reminder there must be a justifiable clinical reason for mask and/or vaccine exemptions, which should be well and clearly document in the patient chart. Physicians know their patients best and we trust in your clinical judgment to make the right, evidence-based decisions for your patients.

If you have questions or are looking for guidance, or if you wish to raise a concern regarding COVID-19, please contact covid19@cpsa.ab.ca.

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