COVID-19 Updates

As citizens and front-line health care professionals, occupational therapists need to be well informed about  precautions and protocols that mitigate risks of contact with or spread of the coronavirus. OSOT recognizes the extraordinary pressures members are experiencing both in their day to day lives and as related to their work.

The Society will update this page regularly in an effort to provide current, useful information to facilitate your planning and decision-making and to frame our services in ways to best protect you through these unprecedented times.

On March 19, 2020, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a directive to all regulated health professions, directing that all non-essential and elective services should be ceased or reduced to minimal levels, subject to allowable exceptions, until further notice. The College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario recommends that occupational therapists review all the direct client services they currently provide to determine if or how they can be provided safely. View the College's guidance questions for considering the risks of providing or not providing services or adapting your service delivery model.

Many occupational therapy services will be considered essential in that they contribute to clients' ability to be discharged from hospital and/or to manage their own care or be cared for safely at home, preventing visits to the ER or hospitalizations. Occupational therapist who continue to practice may be guided by the Ministry of Health's sector specific guidance, developed for health care professionals and this should be referenced regularly for the most up-to-date information.

On March 23rd, Premier Ford ordered mandatory closures of all non-essential businesses to support efforts to restrict spread of the virus. View list of essential workplaces that will not be affected by mandatory closures.

To support efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, OSOT staff office operations are being managed remotely. Staff are actively working – we’re open for business and to support you! Telephone, email and meeting capabilities have not been negatively impacted as we have capacity to work remotely in place. OSOT Teams will continue to meet (as they already meet virtually) as long as members’ personal situations allow. We encourage members to be in touch and to share their experiences, issues and needs - send us your messages!

OSOT workshops have been cancelled for the next couple of months, we will continue to monitor the community health situation, and will keep you posted. In the meantime, we will continue our scheduled webinar programming and urge members to consider our Archived Webinars as PD opportunities you can take advantage of at any time.

We continue to be active in our advocacy to identify impacts of COVID-19 policy changes that impact occupational therapists' ability to provide essential services to Ontarians. We'll share our advocacy documents in our regular COVID-19 updates and in the Practice Sector Updates section below. Help ensure OSOT is representing your issues and your voice - keep us posted - we're all working together during this challenging time!

To ensure that members are receiving consistent information, OSOT directs members to the following reliable resources of information. We urge all members to be informed, respectful and compliant of advisories and recommendations and to be in a position to inform clients of any implications for access to OT services.

  • College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario
    • COTO hosts a dedicated webpage on COVID-19 with guidance information for OTs and the public which is updated regularly. 
    • Occupational therapists are advised to review and ensure practice of best practices for infection control and should review the COTO Standards for Infection Protection and Control, 2019.

  • Ministry of Health dedicated website for health workers and health employers 
    • this site is updated twice daily and provides the most current provincial guidance such as:
      • case definition of COVID-19, symptoms to watch for, situations of for concern, etc.
      • guidance for self isolation and self monitoring.
      • guidance for various health care environments and sectors - e.g. acute care, primary care, home and community, long-term care home, etc.
      • a call for regulated health professionals who could return to work or increase hours from part time to help support Ontario’s efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Ontario Ministry of Health Public Facing COVID-19 Information 
    • Up to date resources that can support you as a citizen and be a good reference for your clients.

  • Public Health Ontario COVID-19 Public Resources
    • this site provides fact sheets in multiple languages including information on:
      • How to self-monitor.
      • How to self-isolate.
      • Self-isolation: Guide for caregivers, household members and close contacts.
      • Contact your Local Public Health Unit to discuss local direction about services, etc.

  • Your Employer/Contracting Organization 
    • Occupational therapists employed or contracted should consult with their employer/contractor for specific organizational policy and any directives unique to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As occupational therapists and their organizations identify what are essential services, it becomes critical to determine whether these services can be safely delivered in person or, alternatively, if they can be delivered virtually by telephone or with a web-based video platform. Recognizing the challenge to build new service delivery models into practice as quickly as possible, OSOT has developed a basic primer on telepractice, intended to help you work through decisions to integrate this into your practice.  Our goal is to build on this resource, posting the information to the OSOT website. Send us your questions to support this work.

View Integrating Telepractice into your Occupational Therapy Practice: considerations for attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Health has also released a new resource Adopting and integrating virtual visits into care:  Draft Clinical Guidelines which provides excellent guidance for telepractice in keeping with provincial best practices. Note that this resource has been released as a DRAFT in order to expedite access to information that is critical to health professionals at this time.

Hospital Sector

  • Hospitals are working to ramp up their ability to receive an avalanche of COVID-19 patients, while trying to serve the needs of non-COVID patients. March 21st Order gave hospitals broad temporary powers to deploy staff in any reasonable way to respond to, prevent or alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19. Occupational therapists are generally seen to be essential to patient flow, providing acute and rehabilitation services that support discharge, but staff may be deployed into roles or services that serve the hospital's efforts to fight COVID.
  • Monitor the Ontario Hospital Association COVID-19 Updates web page for policy updates affecting Ontario hospitals.
  • View Ministry Guidance for Acute Care.
  • See update on procedures for seating and mobility devices during Assistive Devices Program closure.

Long-Term Care Homes

Home & Community Care

Primary Health Care

Mental Health Services

Auto Insurance Sector

  • View OSOT's March 27, 2020 communication in collaboration with the Coalition of Health Professional Associations in Ontario Automobile Insurance Services to the Insurance Bureau of Canada identify issues and concerns relating to health professional services in this sector. Watch for updates as a response is heard.
  • FSRA has announced extension of deadline for Health Service Provider filing of Annual Information Return (AIR) to June 30, 2020. Read more.
  • Auto Insurance Sector Practice during COVID-19 - a web-based question and answer session that is now posted to the Archived Webinar page for complimentary viewing at your convenience.

School-Based OT Services

  • March 31st announcement of continued closure of Ontario's public schools to May 1, 2020 and private schools to April 13, 2020 (to be reviewed at each deadline). View News Release
  • OTs providing school-based services to children who are home-schooled or attend private schools have been directed to provide virtual services where reasonable.  Members will wish to view letter submitted by OSOT and our colleague therapy associations expressing concern about the direction and fee structure for virtual visits. See communique. We will post updates as we learn more.

WSIB Sector

  • WSIB has announced that it will fund virtual care sessions  for the delivery of programs and services and that the existing fee schedules for programs of care, episodes of care, the Community Mental Health Program and fee-for-service treatment will also be used for virtual care. Learn more.

Veteran Affairs

  • Effective March 18th, VA Home visits OT home visits for assessment and treatment by Veterans Affairs Canada Fee for Service OTs are postponed indefinitely. No new referral will be sent at this time. View communication.
  • OT Mental Health assessments and treatments via telehealth for Veterans with mental health barriers will be considered if set criteria are met. Read more.

OSOT recognizes the many potential impacts that the virus, isolation/quarantine or work/school/daycare restrictions will have on members’ earning capacity. We are pleased that there are government efforts to address the personal economic impacts of this situation and urge members to review the following supports. Have a question you'd like to ask a lawyer about your employment situation over the pandemic period? OSOT members have access to complimentary telephone legal advice 24/7. Learn more.

  • Provincial Government Supports
    • NEW!  Ontario's Action Plan:  Responding to COVID-19 - scroll for information on supports for daycare, student loans, deferral of provincial taxes and more.  Announced March 24, 2020.
    • NEW!  Emergency Childcare for Health Care and Frontline staff​
    • The Ontario Legislature has passed the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 to provide job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives. Learn more

  • Federal Government Supports
    • NEW! March 25th - Canada announces Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a taxable benefit will provide $2,000/month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and would apply to wage earners, as well as contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).  The portal for applying will be available in early April. Learn more and apply.
    • NEW! Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The federal government will subsidize 75% of an employers' employees' salary on the first $58,000 earned to support employers through this difficult time. More details on April 6th. 
    • Coronavirus Benefits & Services
    • Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Canadians quarantined can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. For Canadians affected by COVID-19, the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantined so they can be paid for the first week of their claim. Learn more and how to apply
    • Self-employed Canadians can access Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits by entering into an agreement, or registering, with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. As a self-employed individual, you have to register online with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission to participate in the EI program. Learn more.
    • Parliament will convene on March 24th to approve additional supports for Canadians

Are you an Employer?

  • NEW!  Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The federal government will subsidize 75% of an employers' employees' salary on the first $58,000 earned to support employers through this difficult time. More details on April 6th.
  • Currently under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, if an employer is advised a worker is ill resulting from an exposure at work (including COVID-19), or a claim has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) with respect to COVID-19 exposure at work, the employer must notify the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four days. The employer must also notify the workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative and trade union, if any.  
  • Need signage for your practice to alert patients and visitors to restrictions?
  • Have an employment related question you'd like to ask a Lawyer? OSOT's Legal Advisory Service is ready to serve!
    OSOT members have 24/7 access to telephone based legal advice as a benefit of membership. Amongst a wide variety of other legal questions, employment or contract related questions can be addressed. It's just a phone call away!  Learn more.

OSOT is working with the Coalition of Ontario Regulated Health Professional Associations to advocate for attention to the critical shortage of personal protective equipment across Ontario's health system, particularly in the community and long-term care homes where resources are significantly lacking. Members are encouraged to be familiar with Ministry of Health Guidance documents for use of PPE and to consider their safety and that of their client and their family when providing in-person services. We are pleased to see the recent commitment of the federal government to boost capacity to manufacture PPE and to invest $2 billion to support diagnostic testing and to purchase ventilators and PPE.

Ontario recognizes the hard work and dedication of front-line heath care providers. To support them during these unprecedented and challenging times, the Ministry of Health is looking for additional experienced health care providers to help provincial efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19. Occupational therapists who are not working but able, working part-time and want to and are prepared to increase their work hours, or former healthcare providers who are retired, or on inactive status with their regulatory college; and are prepared to return to employment are asked to consider this request. Learn more about how to offer your services.

Occupational therapists can be in a unique position to support clients who may be particularly fearful at this time, ensuring they have access to quality, scientific information, by sharing stress management strategies and by leading by example in the practice of precautions. The emerging situation may require significant limitation or disruption of services or alternatives to direct service delivery (e.g. telephone/web-based consultation) which, if necessary, should be clearly communicated to clients and all referring sources. Ontarians have real need for occupational therapists so we urge you to take care of yourself and your family, engaging all precautions and safe hygiene practices. We want to keep our OT workforce and our membership healthy!

Occupational therapists know how important engagement in meaningful occupations is to health and well-being!  At times when people's routines of daily living are disrupted as they are so significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. OSOT is considering a social media campaign that promotes to our broad following the importance of maintaining a participation in occupations. We're wanting to develop a resource of suggestions to keep engaged in occupations while social distancing. Send us your suggestions and ideas!

  1. If I modify my practice and offer to deliver telephone or web-based services will my OSOT professional liability insurance policy cover me in these circumstances. Yes. Your professional liability insurance covers you for your practice of occupational therapy. If you are practising occupational therapy as a registered occupational therapist within the standards of practice of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario, your insurance will cover you.

** Send us your questions and we'll work to find a response for you.

We’re working to keep you apprised! You have our commitment to share information as we receive it and to update this web page regularly. Now is a good time to follow OSOT’s social media platforms and share your perspectives on: