We have once again been working closely with our allies (ATMS, ANTA and Massage and Myotherapy Association Australia) and the DHHS Victoria to provide accurate and up to date information for you all. The following is the current situation with regard to Victorian members and made clear that the current wording is now in law.
Regional Victorian members
Your stage 3 restrictions permit you to continue practicing at this time, but you are urged to exercise a high level of caution with regard to clients you accept, ensuring they are adequately screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to their appointment, that appropriate hygiene processes are adhered to, and that both you and your client are wearing a mask at all times. Always evaluate your patient lists carefully and provide telepractice consultations where deemed appropriate.
Melbourne metropolitan members
Stage 4 restrictions are aligned to Victoria’s current State of Disaster and are understandably focused on saving and protecting the lives of all Victorian’s through restricting non-essential movement across the state.
Under the ‘Permitted Work Premises for the purposes of the Restricted Activity Directions (Restricted Areas)’ instructions, if you provide a critical Allied Health service within the context of an ‘approved workplace’, such as a public or private hospital, you can continue to deliver this service/s without issue.
If you operate as a private practitioner or within an Allied Health private practice setting, you (or your employer) will need to ensure that your patients/clients fit within the prescribed inclusion criteria for an ‘essential’ service; https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/business-industry-stage-4-restrictions-covid-19
The current restrictions as they stand are below (effective 11 August 2020);
· Primary health services specific to general practitioners, pharmacy, nursing and midwifery;
· All AHPRA registered health workers – and in addition, social work, speech pathology, dietetics, audiology, providing services that prevent a significant change/deterioration in functional independence necessitating escalation of care (e.g. a requirement for specialist input/review, an increase in care needs and/or alternate accommodation, avoiding a hospital admission or emergency department presentation)’;
· Any other health worker providing services required under a Chronic Disease Management Plan, a care plan endorsed by NDIS (including self-managed plans), TAC, Workcover or DVA – if care is required to prevent a significant change/deterioration in functional independence necessitating escalation of care (e.g. a requirement for specialist input/review, an increase in care needs and/or alternate accommodation, avoiding a hospital admission or emergency department presentation).
What does this mean for you?
- Routine services are not permitted
- Care must only be provided if the absence of, or delay of this care, would result in a significant change/deterioration in the patient/client’s functional independence necessitating escalation of care – as described above. These directives are about protecting the public and protecting health workers. Practitioners must critically consider if the service is essential for the patient/client in the next six week period. This is about saving lives.
- While a GP referral is not required to provide care, the requirements outlined above must be met in order for a myotherapist to provide in-person care
- Telehealth: in order to reduce movement, anyone who can work from home should do so. However if they are providing telehealth services to patients / clients and they can’t do this at home, they can do so from their standard workplace. Please note that the need for COVID Safe Plans and Work Permits will also need to be in place.
The upshot is that unless your client has a NDIS, TAC, Workcover or DVA endorsed care plan, and if their presentation / condition is considered critical, i.e. to maintain functional independence and stay out of hospital, then you are not permitted to treat them face to face at this time.
We understand that these restrictions are far from ideal and will mean that closing your practices for now will be the only option for many Melbourne based therapists. Your Association is here for you at this time and we will continue to advocate for you in every way we can.
Stay safe and take care of one another.
In addition to the above critical information, we have been advised from AHPA information provided to them from DHHS earlier this afternoon:
Stage 4 Restrictions and Seeking Care and Health Care
- As per current guidance re stage 4 restrictions, individuals can leave their homes to seek ‘care and health care’ – this guidance does not specific a geographical limit; https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/stage-4-restrictions-covid-19
- You can leave home to receive health care or attend medical appointments. If you need to see a doctor or health care professional, you should do so. Do not put off getting medical care. Your doctor or health care professional can provide advice on how to stay safe.
- You can leave home to care for a sick or elderly relative. If you are providing care for someone you should try to keep 1.5 metres between you when you can. Wear a face covering.
- You can leave home to accompany someone for essential medical treatment if you are a parent, guardian or necessary support person.
COVID Safe Plans
- Information on creating a COVID Safe workplan; https://www.business.vic.gov.au/disputes-disasters-and-succession-planning/covid-safe-business/creating-a-covid-safe-workplace
Permitted Worker Scheme
- Information on how to issue a worker permit and links to templates; https://www.justice.vic.gov.au/permitted-worker-scheme
Provision of Essential Services within a Patient/Client’s Home Environment
- Provision of ‘essential’ Allied Health services within a patient’s home environment should be interpreted as the equivalent of entering a clinical area and appropriate infection control/PPE guidance adhered to.
- If completing more than one home visit within a single day, this is in effect a change of workplace and a full change of PPE should be instituted – including reassessment of the potential risk and required PPE tier for each individual patient/client.
- Please refer to the link for further details – ‘PPE guidance for Allied Health in Private Practice Settings’.
We hope this information proves useful and will continue to forward additional comms as further information becomes available.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS STRUGGLING, PLEASE VISIT THE MENTAL SUPPORT HELPLINES HERE
Updated 13th August, 2020