The latest updates from our Advocacy and Policy team during the COVID-19 outbreak.
DVA Update on COVID-19
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has provided the following update.
Allied Mental Health Professionals
Allied mental health professionals are also able to provide consultations via teleconference and videoconference attendance. Updated mental health fee schedules effective from 13 March 2020 can be found on the DVA website.
Please note that treatment cycle arrangements continue to apply for DVA clients accessing allied health services, including allied mental health services delivered via telephone and video conference capability. Where required, clients who are vulnerable to COVID-19 as outlined above, may access a GP via a telehealth consultation for a referral for clinically required allied health treatment.
Other Allied Health Professionals
Priority has been given to primary and emergency health services and to ensuring that a unified government response appropriately manages life-saving resources within our healthcare system. Consequently, telehealth items are not currently available to all allied health professions at this time.
The DVA website now has a dedicated COVID-19 information page for healthcare providers.
DVA has indicated that it is currently engaged in the development of a whole of government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which we understand is likely to be announced at the end of the week.
COVID-19 Advocacy Statements from OTA
You will appreciate that advocacy and lobbying is currently a rapidly changing space, with government decision-making, and critically important announcements, occurring almost hourly.
This is the latest on our COVID-19 related activities.
Late last week, Allied Health Professions Australia, forwarded a briefing paper to the Federal Health Minister, calling on the Commonwealth to incorporate telehealth delivery within existing funding programs, to help address the needs of particularly vulnerable people.
AHPA also pointed out that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the NDIS, and the private health insurance funds are poised to expand telehealth services but are awaiting Commonwealth leadership in this space. OTA was a contributor to the AHPA briefing paper, providing specific examples of how certain OT services can be effectively delivered by means of telehealth.
In addition to this, OTA has written in its own right to the Health Minister, supporting the extension of telehealth in the context of MBS rebateable services.
I am pleased to report that OTA received the following advice from Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. In light of some states shutting down ‘non-essential services’, the Minister has confirmed that ALL allied health businesses nationally can continue working and are encouraged to do so. The Minister has also indicated that the Department of Health is now developing full allied health telehealth options, along with other health and medical services, and these will be made known within the week. This will be part of a staged plan and he encourages providers to continue vital face-to-face services where possible. OTA will continue to update members with details as they come to hand. Please refer to our COVID-19 resource page for the latest information.
OTA has also written to the Small Business Minister, Michaela Cash, pointing out the unique challenges facing occupational therapists working in private practice and asking what the Morison Government will do to support them.
On Friday I represented OTA at a meeting of allied health associations with the new CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Martin Hoffman.
While this meeting had been scheduled weeks earlier, and much of the discussion was around the medium to long term future of the NDIS, the discussion of course turned also to COVID-19.
Mr Hoffman said the NDIA was liaising closely with other government departments and agencies re its response to the pandemic. He made it clear, however, that the NDIA was receptive to the idea that whatever services can be effectively delivered by telehealth, should be delivered by telehealth. He also confirmed that we can expect guidelines around this from the agency very soon.
So, at this stage, I encourage you to check our website as regularly as possible. We are posting relevant government announcements as soon as they are made public, as well as useful links to websites which provide details of the support packages being made available by governments.
In the meantime, I wish you and your clients all the best at this very difficult time.