Optometrists are open for routine care. Below are the guidelines all optometrists in Manitoba are following during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions, contact your optometrist's office or the Manitoba Association of Optometrists, 204-943-9811. The MAO office is closed to visitors, but remains open for business by email and phone. Please call before visiting our office.
Council Policy Statement
Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Government and the Provincial Public Health Office, together with health regulatory bodies, hold the formal authority to set the parameters of patient care. Processes and recommended policies during a pandemic may change. Guidelines are subject to change as information evolves. Public Health Orders may be imposed and amended. Members must be vigilant in staying current with health-related updates and government orders.
Effective October 12, 2021, the Manitoba Association of Optometrists adopts the following as a Policy of the Association: The Council Policy Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic dated August 6, 2021 is hereby replaced.
As Public Health restrictions ease and we begin to enter an era of post-pandemic practice, it is important to remember that this does not mean an immediate full return to pre-pandemic practice. The following requirements and guidelines are intended to help members create individual clinic policies to continue to provide a safe environment for patients, staff and optometrists.
Although vaccination rates continue to increase, it is important to remember that vaccinated individuals can still acquire and transmit the virus.
Efforts should be made to maintain appropriate physical distancing between everyone in the clinic (optometrists, staff, and patients). Patient volumes should be managed to maintain appropriate physical distancing and minimize in-office wait times.
It is recommended to ask patients to come in alone unless another person is necessary (parent of child, mobility aide, translator).
Adhering to disinfection and infection control procedures is mandatory.
A. Vaccination and Testing Requirements:
i. The Public Health Order dated September 24, 2021 requires medical professionals working in Manitoba Health funded facilities to be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing. The Manitoba Association of Optometrists believes, in light of the current public health risks, that it is necessary for all optometrists to either be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing in order to protect members, their staff, and patients.
ii. Effective October 31, 2021, MAO requires all members to either be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing for COVID-19 prior to treating patients.
iii. Effective October 31, 2021, optometrists who are fully vaccinated must keep permanent records of their vaccination status. These records may be requested by MAO for review at any time to ensure compliance with this Policy.
iv. Effective October 31, 2021, optometrists who are not fully vaccinated must test regularly, in accordance with guidelines published by Shared Health (https://manitoba.ca/covid19/testing/rapid-testing-public-servants.html#…) using the rapid COVID-19 test as defined in the September 24 Public Health Order:
a) the Abbott PanBio COVID-19 antigen test;
b) the BD Veritor COVID-19 antigen test; and
c) any other test for COVID-19 approved by the chief provincial public health officer.
v. Records must be kept by each optometrist of all their test results (sample log attached), together with a log of all shifts worked at each practice location. These records may be requested by MAO for review at any time to ensure compliance with this Policy.
vi. Effective October 31, 2021, an optometrist who is not fully vaccinated must not attend their clinic unless less than 48 hours have passed since they took a rapid COVID-19 test which had a negative result. An optometrist who tests positive on a rapid COVID-19 test must take a PCR test as soon as possible after the positive test result and follow the self-isolation instructions at https://manitoba.ca/asset_library/en/covid/factsheet-isolation-selfmoni….
vii. Regardless of vaccination status, all members must follow the PPE guidance set out in the Council Policy Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic or, when providing patient care in the facilities referred to in Paragraph A.viii, must follow the PPE guidance of Shared Health or the facility.
viii. Optometrists in direct contact with patients, residents and clients at:
b) northern nursing stations operated by the Government of Manitoba;
c) personal care homes or supportive housing facilities;
d) facilities operated by Shared Health Inc., a regional health authority, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba or a community services agency that are the subject of a funding agreement with Shared Health Inc. or a regional health authority;
e) a residential mental health facility or addictions treatment facility that is operated by or the subject of a funding agreement with the Government of Manitoba
must be vaccinated or tested in accordance with the provisions of the Public Health Order and should consult Shared Health documents and facility managers to obtain information on the requirements in these facilities.
ix. If an optometrist falls into another category requiring vaccination or testing as set out in the Public Health Order, they are expected to comply with vaccination or testing in accordance with the Public Health Order.
x. As MAO members, optometrists are required to act in the best interest of patients and to provide premises that are safe for the practice of optometry. As employers, optometrists have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for staff.
xi. MAO strongly recommends that effective October 31, 2021 any non-optometrist working in any capacity in an optometric clinic ("staff") who interacts directly with the public should be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Appropriate PPE, in accordance with the requirements of the Council Policy Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic, must be worn by all staff, regardless of vaccination status.
xii. Records of vaccination status and testing logs as described above for optometrists should be used in your practice to keep records of staff vaccination and testing status.
xiii. If a staff member falls into another category requiring vaccination or testing as set out in the Public Health Order, the provisions of the Public Health Order would apply, as they would for any individual.
xiv. Some optometrists and staff may be eligible for a medical exemption for vaccination. Members should be aware that medical exemptions are granted in only a few situations where clinically indicated, and that there is a process in place through Manitoba Public Health to properly verify appropriate exemptions.
xv. If an individual has a medical exemption for vaccination, this does not release them from the requirement for testing.
xvi. Clinical Practice Guidelines published by the Province of Manitoba re: vaccination can be found at https://www.gov.mb.ca/asset_library/en/covidvaccine/clinical_practice_g… (see page 17 for a list of exemptions). An update on this Clinical Practice Guideline (October 6, 2021) can be found at: https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/vaccine/eligibility-criteria.html#exempti…. Members and staff should note that the exemptions are quite limited.
xvii. Members are required to acknowledge that they have read and understood that vaccination requirements under the Council Policy Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
B. Precautionary Screening:
Optometrists must screen patients upon entry into the clinic. Current screening criteria and isolation requirements can be found on the Shared Health website (https://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/screening-tool/).
i. Optometrists should not see any patients in the clinic who do not pass the screening criteria. Any patient who does not pass screening criteria and has an urgent/emergent eye issue that cannot wait should be directed to the Misericordia Health Centre. There may be separate accommodations made for remote practice settings; in these cases, optometrists should call the on-call ophthalmologist for further guidance.
ii. Optometrists, staff, and patients who do not pass the screening should be directed to return home and follow appropriate self-isolation/quarantine processes and complete the Shared Health Screening Tool.
iii. Any optometrist, staff, or patient identified as being symptomatic should be instructed to call Health Links-Info Santé for further instruction.
iv. Contact information must be recorded and retained for all individuals who attend the clinic and who would be considered close contacts (i.e. more than 10 minutes in close proximity).
C. PPE Required:
Shared Health guidelines continue to recommend the use of face masks, eye protection and hand hygiene in all health care facilities.
Optometrists and staff must wear/use appropriate PPE (mask, eye protection, and hand hygiene) throughout all patient encounters.
i. Masks (procedure, KN95, or N95) must be worn. Recommendations from Shared Health are available at https://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/providers/ppe-resources/. Masks must cover the nose, mouth and chin. Valved masks are not acceptable.
Optometrists and staff must wear masks at all times (with the exception of consuming food or drink or when alone in a private area of the clinic).
Patients must wear a mask or cloth face covering while in the clinic, with the following exceptions:
- Children under the age of five;
- Individuals with medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19, including breathing or cognitive difficulties, or a disability, that prevents them from safely wearing a mask; and,
- Any person unable to put on or remove a mask without the assistance of another person.
Patients may be required to provide written confirmation from a medical practitioner that they have such a condition, difficulty or disability, or inability to put on or remove a mask without the assistance of another person.
Patients may temporarily remove their mask as required for proper assessment while receiving services (e.g. using phoropter, confirming final frame selection and adjustments).
The optometrist has the right to determine suitability of the face covering, in order to see the patient.
ii. Eye protection (goggles, full coverage safety glasses, or face shield) must be worn by optometrists and staff, except in reception areas when a plexiglass screen is present between patient and staff, or in administrative areas where 2 metres of separation can be maintained.
Shared Health continues to recommend the use of eye protection in all health care clinics. Given the difficulty of using eye protection with many ophthalmic instruments, optometrists may temporarily remove their eye protection as necessary for ocular evaluation.
Fully vaccinated optometrists or staff may elect not to wear protective eyewear during care of patients defined as GREEN (see definition at https://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/providers/ppe-resources/).
iii. Hand hygiene. Hands must be washed or sanitized immediately before and after any patient encounter. Single use latex or nitrile gloves may be used, once only, in a single patient encounter.
iv. Plexiglass/acrylic barriers are recommended on desktop surfaces in reception, dispensing and contact lens training stations. They are also recommended on professional devices such as slit lamps, phoropters and pupilometers.
Optometrists must continue to follow infection control procedures and disinfect all professional equipment after each patient contact.
Optometrists should continue to follow manufacturers’ recommendations for disinfection/sanitization of specific instruments/equipment.
Non-critical surfaces and common touchpoints (e.g. waiting room furniture, countertops, keyboards, etc.) should continue to be disinfected regularly.
Frames must be sanitized after contact by each patient, before being placed back on display.
As they are not easily disinfected, magazines and toys should not be in patient waiting areas at this time.
E. Personal Care Home/Assisted Living/Home Visits:
Members who are fully vaccinated may provide care to fully vaccinated patients in personal care homes/assisted living facilities, provided that prior approval has been obtained from the personal care home/assisted living facility. Members who are fully vaccinated may provide in-home care to patients who are fully vaccinated (fully vaccinated means two doses plus two weeks from the time of the second dose).
F. Virtual Care:
Optometrists may continue to provide virtual care (telephone/video consultations) where possible to minimize the number of in-person visits.
Current State of Emergency and Public Health Orders https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/prs/orders/index.html
COVID-19 Information https://manitoba.ca/covid19/index.html
Shared Health COVID-19 Screening Tool
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – Emergency and Patient Intake (link from Shared Health): https://www.ccohs.ca/covid19/emergency-patient-intake/
Provincial COVID-19 resources for health-care providers and staff (Shared Health) https://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/providers/
Resources for Providers and Clinics – Primary Care (Shared Health) https://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/providers/resources-for-providers-and-clinics/