The Opticians Association of Canada VRS COVID 19
Update June 2020
Stay safe, stay healthy. That is the standard that has replaced any parting words here in Canada. We have been in complete lockdown since March 19th. Only essential services have been allowed to operate and that is under strict safety protocols. We have had no large gatherings as all events have been cancelled until at minimum September – likely to be extended. Canadians have done their part to follow health advice and government direction in the struggle to contain this pandemic.
Opticians have had to endure their own challenges on top of the community obligations. When the government gave its initial direction, opticians were unsure of their status. Are opticians considered essential services? Some independents were closed while some chains remained open. Opticians were getting orders from many directions, corporate, associations, health care professionals and media: it seemed like an information overload. Through that deluge opticians were left to decide how to act. The license bodies or regulators of the industry were also publishing orders to only offer necessary or emergency services. The wave of information issued and reissued began to seriously cause friction and confusion in workplaces. The phones began to light up and emails poured in here at the OAC – the team was now working from home, so phones were redirected, and home offices were set up immediately. Opticians wanted an answer to the simple question of “Do I have to report to work?”
The answer was simple enough. “NO”. Yet this was not a complete answer as it opened a plethora of other questions.
Will I be paid?
Will I lose my job?
Will I face any discipline from the regulator?
Opticians have been trained to use their professional judgement in many circumstances. They have no trouble recommending a product or vision plan that they believe is best for the patient. Opticians use this every day. It is the actual best tool in our toolbox for giving the vision care consumer the best experience possible. The professional judgement required for this decision though could be a personally more detrimental decision as it could have long lasting effects on one’s career and financial stability or health and the health of their families. All this had to be taken into consideration before a “professional judgement” could be made.
The OAC, determined to meet our member needs, chose to hold virtual town meetings and to communicate on all channels to opticians that we understood the dilemma and had confidence that they would make proper decisions. Essential services are to be decided by each optician. What is the safest way to offer the service if required? Is there a communication on the front door of the office that allows vision care consumers to contact the optician? We are fortunate to practice in such a positive environment in Canada. Dispensaries of all sizes took advice from many sources. Week three saw most opticians settled into a safe practice situation. We were available only where required. To the business and personal detriment of ourselves opticians had come to terms with their professional judgement and we comfortable with their actions. The Opticians Association of Canada is so impressed by our opticians and their sacrifice to control this pandemic. We have absolute respect for each and every one of them.
Going forward our country is large geographically and we have opened again in some provinces especially out west in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The east has New Brunswick and PEI open with Nova Scotia on track for this week. Newfoundland remains closed and the two big hot spots are in Ontario where they have made the decision to proceed more slowly and Quebec where they have chosen to regionally open places with few or no active cases.
Canada will come back on track but 2020 will be remembered as a tragic year. In the association world we are uncertain of the lasting effects of this pandemic on our membership and in person events. We remain hopeful our members see the value of the OAC, and the dedication of the team determined to provide all the services opticians have come to rely upon. The organization has successfully pivoted to offering webinars and professional development on demand through our online library.
Stay safe, Stay healthy
Opticians Association of Canada