27 October 2020
We have been delighted to see the second day of zero cases announced in metro Melbourne, and thank everyone for their continued support and perseverance throughout the pandemic.
The Victorian Department of Health has provided the following update for members:
We are very pleased with the recent announcements regarding allied health and other primary care services being able to resume routine care.
The only exception/restriction for metro Melbourne that remains is indoor group activity. This is still not permitted until metropolitan Melbourne aligns with regional Victoria on the 8th of November. Any form of indoor activity that brings members of different households together is still considered the highest risk, irrespective of the reason those people might be in the indoor space.
Further detail regarding density quotients and numbers will follow in the next few days however it is anticipated that group clinical intervention/therapy will be able to re commence from 8 November 2020. OTA will provide members with more details as they come to hand.
19 October 2020
Update from the Chief Allied Health Officer, DHHS
"We were pleased with the inclusion of Allied Health in the Premier’s media announcement yesterday, and recognise the challenging impact of restrictions for Allied Health practitioners over recent months. We again thank you and your members for your assistance in ensuring the health and wellbeing of all Victorians during the pandemic response.
We are pleased to confirm the following easing of restrictions for Allied Health services in metro Melbourne (effective as of 11.59pm, 18 October 2020);
- All AHPRA registered health workers - and in addition, social work, speech pathology, dietetics, audiology, exercise physiology, orthotists and prosthetists, orthoptists, art therapists and music therapists may provide routine and preventative care for individual patients.
- Telehealth should remain the first preference for service delivery and be provided wherever clinically appropriate.
- Indoor group classes are not permitted.
- Outdoor classes are permitted with a maximum of 2 patients to 1 health professional.
- Hydrotherapy services may be provided 1:1 in an indoor pool are permitted (1 health professional to 1 patient). No group sessions are permitted, however a maximum of 10 people are permitted in a hydrotherapy pool at any given time with services provided 1:1 with density quotients (i.e. 5 health professionals and 5 clients).
- Gyms remain closed.
- Treatment of more than one person in an open clinical space is permitted with density quotients.
- Home visits may be provided with strict infection prevention and control and use of PPE.
From 1 November, we anticipate that there will be a further easing of restrictions and move to the full ‘third step’ of the recovery roadmap for metro Melbourne - pending the advice of the public health team.”
5 October 2020
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs Provider News has published an article on DVA’s temporary telehealth arrangements. Read more here.
2 October 2020
We have been provided with several updates from the DHHS that may be of interest to you.
Face Shields: A Quick Guide
Download the Commonwealth Department of Health quick reference resource on face shields which was referenced in Wednesdays webinar from the DHHS Infection Prevention and Control Cell.
Update to PPE Guidance for Allied Health Private Practice
DHHS has provided an updated version of the departmental PPE guidance specific to Allied Health in private practice settings issued in August. Amendments to content are highlighted in yellow.
There has also been a Q+A provided on the 4m2 rule that may assist when working in rooms with clients:
Q: What can you do if the individual treatment room you are using does not allow for compliance with the 4m2 rule?
A: The 4m2 rule is a guide - unfortunately at times it is not possible to adhere to. Is there another room that can be used in that instance? If not, then both wear masks - It would mean that you would both be considered a close contact in the event of a positive case, and risk of transmission is higher. An N95 mask may help in that instance and full PPE if room cannot be changed.’
29 September 2020
COVID update from the Chief Allied Health Officer, Safer Care Victoria (DHHS)
Yesterday, the Premier provided further detail of the ‘second step’ of easing of restrictions for metro Melbourne.
An industry restart guideline has been developed for allied health and is now available here. This document contains details for allied health services during each step of the easing of restrictions. It also outlines the COVID Safe principles, and what workplaces need to do to ensure a COVID Safe environment.
The updated permitted work premises list for the ‘health care and social assistance industries’ has been updated to align with the content of industry restart guidelines.
FAQs have also been developed to address common practitioner and consumer questions.
28 September 2020
The Primary Health Network Tasmanian has developed a toolkit designed to assist allied health professionals prepare for and manage an outbreak of COVID-19. The toolkit is broken down into four sections:
Section one: COVID-19 outbreak preparedness framework
Section two: Risk management for allied health settings during COVID-19
Section three: Roles and responsibilities–staff member with a confirmed case of COVID-19
Section four: Principles and protocols–cleaning and decontamination in allied health settings
View the document here.
The Industry Restart Guidelines for the allied health sector have been released, containing details for allied health during each step of the easing of restrictions. It also outlines the COVID Safe principles, and what workplaces need to do to ensure a COVID Safe environment. Access the guidelines here.
Regional Victoria Indoor Group Classes
Victoria’s health office has advised that indoor group classes for the purposes of providing a clinical intervention are permitted in regional Victoria in order to:
- Prevent a significant deterioration in functional independence which would result in an escalation of care needs (such as increased frequency in treatment, significant increase in pain, specialist input, or substantial increase in recovery time as a result of delayed care)
- Provide essential pre-operative or post-operative elective surgery care
There is an expectation that physical distancing/density quotients must be adhered to, good hygiene is practiced, and masks are worn.
25 September 2020
DVA has now extended its temporary telehealth arrangements to 31 March 2021 (in line with the Department of Health). Updates on DVA’s COVID-19 arrangements for providers will continue to be communicated on the DVA website here.
21 September 2020
Allied Health Webinar
The DHHS Outbreak Squad are hosting a webinar specific to Victorian Allied Health professionals on Wednesday 30th September from 6 - 7:30pm. The purpose of this session is to assist Allied Health Professional in reducing COVID transmission.
The meeting agenda and invitation link can be accessed here
18 September 2020
Six month extension to telehealth
The Federal Government will extend subsidised telehealth sessions for an extra six months, as part of a $2 billion top up to keep COVID-19 health measures going during the pandemic.
The additional funding will ensure Medicare-subsidised telehealth for general practitioners, nursing, midwifery, allied health and allied mental health services will continue until 31 March 2021.
The media release is available here - https://www.pm.gov.au/media/2-billion-extend-critical-health-services-across-australia
17 September, 2020
OTA continues to meet regularly with the DHHS to bring you the latest guidance on restrictions for Victorian occupational therapists. Today we have received correspondence from the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer providing additional guidance about the easing of restrictions as part of the next stage (Step 2) of the Victorian Roadmap to reopening. This guidance is intended to provide further clarification ahead of the release of the full industry roadmap. Please read our full update here
16 September, 2020
Update for OTs in Metro Melbourne
The Victorian Government has announced that from 28 September “Allied health professionals will be able to see patients for face-to-face services for a broader range of treatments than just preventing hospital admission, such as for pain management or to prevent a deterioration in functional independence.” Read the full release here.
14 September, 2020
Message from TAC
The TAC is grateful for the dedicated work of health providers during these challenging times. In response to COVID-19 the TAC introduced temporary funding of telehealth services to ensure its clients can still access the treatments and services they need related to their transport accident. The TAC has now announced it will extend funding temporary telehealth services previously scheduled to end on 30 September until further notice, giving clients the ongoing convenience and flexibility of accessing health services from home.
Telehealth services enable you to use video conferencing to deliver health services to a TAC client. Telephone consultations may be used if videoconferencing is not available. TAC telehealth rates allow you to be paid at your equivalent TAC face-to-face rate when telehealth services are delivered to TAC clients. Provider guidelines for the delivery of telehealth can be found on the TAC website.
Reminder–TAC clients and when to seek approval
The TAC recently announced a change to give you greater clarity about when to seek approval for treatment and services, how they make decisions and about what they can pay for. The TAC can now pay for some treatments and services without prior approval for up to 90 days from the date of the client’s transport accident. After 90 days, you or the client will need to contact the TAC for the approval of ongoing services. The TAC may request a treatment plan to understand more about the client’s injuries and the treatment and support they need, so it can make decisions about what it can pay for and how long.
For details visit What we can pay for on the TAC website.
11 September, 2020
Guidance for Metro Melbourne OTs
OTA and Allied Health Professions Australia met with the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer and representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services to seek further clarification in relation to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) reopening roadmap for Metropolitan Melbourne. Unfortunately, at this time there is no further official guidance and we are continuing to wait for details, which we understand will be available next week.
However, based on our discussions to date it is our understanding that restrictions remain at their current levels for an additional 14 days from the 14th of September to the 27th of September. If you are seeing or have booked to see face to face clients they must continue to meet the definitions outlined in the permitted workplaces guidance until we receive further notice.
We are cautiously optimistic that restrictions will be eased slightly from the 28th of September, however we will provide further updates early next week or whenever further information is available.
We also understand that guidance on student clinical placements issued by DHHS on the 14th of August remains current, and the department will advise if/when there is any update available.
We continue to strongly advocate for the profession, and acknowledge the ongoing support of our members and the community for their diligence in managing the tough balance between maintaining the health of their clients and reducing potential exposure to Covid-19.
Guidance for OTs in Regional Victoria
Allied health businesses in Regional Victoria remain under Stage 3 restrictions and should expect to remain under similar restrictions for now. We expect further information about potential easing of those requirements as part of the regional roadmap to come next week and will advise members as soon as more information comes to hand.
3 September, 2020
The Department of Health and Human Services has updated their guide to the conventional use of PPE. To ensure you are aware of the most recent changes, all content updates and the date the document was last updated will be highlighted in yellow. View the document here.
31 August, 2020
Queensland Health have released 'Pandemic Response Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Healthcare Delivery’ The Guidance has been developed by a panel of infection control and public health experts and is designed to provide clarity and consistency for decisions regarding PPE and is applicable across all healthcare settings. In the current setting of the cluster of cases associated with the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre, the following Local Government Areas have been determined by the Chief Health Officer to be in the ‘moderate risk’ category:
- City of Brisbane
- City of Ipswich
- Logan City
- Scenic Rim Region
- Somerset Region
- Lockyer Valley Region
- Moreton Bay Region
- Redlands City
- Gold Coast Local Government Area
Moderate risk requires use of flat surgical masks in most clinical settings for staff, patients and visitors. Further information on the use of PPE during the pandemic can be found on the Queensland Health website. All other Hospital and Health Services remain on ’low risk’.
25 August, 2020
The follow up ebook “The New Normal: Navigating Everyday Life During COVID-19” by Lorrae Mynard has reached an international audience and has been translated in German, download the guide here.
24 August, 2020
20 August, 2020
Medibank Telehealth Update
Medibank is extending the ability for customers to claim for telehealth consultations for occupational therapy (as well as psychology, physiotherapy, dietetics, podiatry, exercise physiology and speech therapy) until further notice. Read more here.
18 August, 2020
Victorian DHHS Update
The DHHS website has now been updated with correct information for 'Health care and social assistance restrictions' under metro Melbourne stage 4 restrictions, and frequently asked questions pertaining to the ability access allied health services.
17 August, 2020
UPDATE: Guidance notes on Student Clinical Placements
There has been a further update to the guidance on student clinical placements. These amendments provide clarification regarding students who may be engaged in a part-time capacity in a residential care facility and their ability to undertake clinical placements in another setting.
13 August, 2020
Guidance notes on Student Clinical Placements
The Department of Health and Human Services (Vic) has released guidance notes on student clinical placements. This Guidance Note provides specific advice to education providers, students, Victorian public health sector entities and aged care providers on student clinical placements scheduled during the current Stage 4 restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and Stage 3 restrictions in regional and rural Victoria.
12 August, 2020
Call for Surge Workforce in Victorian Aged Care
There is an urgent call for allied health professionals and students willing and able to assist in the support and care for people residing in Victorian residential aged care facilities including the provision of basic care such as feeding and hygiene. They are seeking people who are willing to provide support and care to meet the needs of residents, as well we those who may be willing to do varying shifts across a 24 hour period.
Interested allied health professionals and students can register with Torrens Health here.
Additionally, EOI are sought from qualified Allied Health professionals to assist in the support and care of people residing in public and private residential aged care facilities. This support will involve the provision of basic care (such as bathing, dressing, continence management, mobility/transfers and feeding) for confirmed/suspected COVID positive residents and non-COVID residents. Varying shifts are available – morning, afternoon and evening/overnight. Interested allied health professionals can register with Torrens Health here.
If you would like to contribute to the COVID-19 effort and if you haven’t already done so we would recommend you make use of the Infection Prevention training modules and the COVID-19 resources that are available.
10 August, 2020
The Government has extended the JobKeeper Payment by a further six months to March 2021, with support targeted to businesses and not-for-profits that continue to be significantly impacted by COVID-19. Learn more about the changes and business support here and view the fact sheet here.
'Movement of healthcare workers and health service employees during coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic' guidelines
These guidelines from the Victorian DHHS, contains a number of general principles which allied health private practitioners may find useful to guide their decision-making re operating and/or working across multiple practice settings. To view the document click here.
7 August, 2020
QLD and NSW Border Residents
With the border restrictions between QLD and NSW coming into effect 1.00am 8 August, the QLD government has released information including what applies to border residents, a map of the border zones and what is essential activity. More information here.
Melbourne OTs working with Assistive Technology
DHHS has advised that relevant allied health practitioners supporting clients with assistive technology devices are permitted to perform repairs and maintenance to assistive technology under stage 4 restrictions.
''Other Service’ Sector: ‘Automotive, machinery and equipment repair and maintenance are permitted to operate where providing support to a permitted service or industry or where required to maintain the health and safety of Victorians at home or at work.’
Important Information for all Victorian OTs
The Public Health Commander has advised that the requirement for COVID-Safe Plans for permitted workplaces applies to the entire state, not just those operating in Stage 4 restricted areas (i.e. metro Melbourne). For more information see the Covid-Safe Plan section in our latest update here.
6 August, 2020
IMPORTANT STAGE 4 UPDATE: Melbourne OTs: We continue to work closely with the DHHS and other allied health professions to discuss and clarify Stage 4. We have updated our COVID-19 Resources with info on workplace travel, advice from DHHS (12pm today), COVID Safe Plans and more here.
DHHS Update for Permitted Work Premises
Overnight, Victoria's DHHS updated its permitted work premises to include all AHPRA registered health workers. No GP referral is now required. Refer to the details below:
"All AHPRA registered health workers - and in addition, social work, speech pathology, dietetics and any other health worker required to fulfil a care plan endorsed by NDIS, TAC, Workcover or DVA - to provide 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)."
More information here.
5 August, 2020
Private Practice Victorian Members: Please see new departmental PPE guidance specific to Allied Health in private practice settings document here.
Message to our Melbourne practitioners from our Professional Practice team
We are acutely aware that you may have a number of questions in relation to the stage 4 COVID restrictions that the Department of Health (Victoria) are planning to put into place in the next day or so. While allied health services are considered essential healthcare services we are expecting some restrictions to be put into place on how these services can be delivered. The major focus of the stage 4 restrictions is to limit movement in the community and this will most likely affect how and when face to face services can be provided.
The movement of healthcare workers and health service employees will be restricted and employers who require staff to attend work will also be required to issue a permit for their workers. These restrictions will take effect form 11.59pm Wednesday 5 August 2020.
We are working closely with the Department of Health and other allied health professions to discuss these implications of these restrictions. We realise there is still some ambiguity as to how these global restrictions apply to different services and settings. We will be doing our utmost to provide greater clarity for you as soon as possible so you can plan how best to continue your services within the parameters of these restrictions.
In the meantime we encourage you to set up telehealth services where you can.
OTA Professional Practice Team
Permitted Worker Scheme
From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, employers that require their staff to attend a work site must issue a worker permit to their employees–this is the employer’s responsibility. For more information visit the Permitted Worker Scheme website. To download the template click here.
4 August, 2020
MELBOURNE UPDATE: STAGE 4 RESTRICTIONS
OTA (as part of AHPA) met with Victoria’s DHHS to clarify the details of the Stage 4 shutdown requirements for allied health providers. We have been given no definitive answers to crucial questions such as referral requirements for access to services, access for private patients/clients, definitions of vulnerable patients/clients, which settings are considered aged care settings, and requirements in relation to COVID-safe plans for health providers.
These questions are still being clarified by the Victorian government's public health team and it is likely we will not receive answers until Thursday. We know that this will cause frustration and concern, however please be assured that we are working to clarify member queries and will provide information as soon as it comes to hand.
Given that, our strong recommendation is to:
- Apply an overarching principle of minimising movement wherever possible (both your own and that of your patients/clients)
- Provide services via telehealth wherever possible
- Until further advice is provided, consider alternative options for clients (e.g. telehealth or deferral) unless face-to-face is absolutely essential for critical health care
- If face-to-face is deemed essential, ask the client to obtain a GP and/or medical specialist referral
- Implement PPE guidelines when face-to-face must occur, including the use of a tier/level 1 disposable surgical mask and eye protection
- Review the guidance for building a COVID-safe plan
The situation is continuing to evolve and we know that the impact of Stage 4 restrictions is of great importance to many practitioners. Through AHPA we are working with the DHHS on a daily basis to promote the value of OT and to ensure that public safety is maintained. Please refer to this COVID-19 Updates page for information and resources.
The Australian Podiatry Association has developed a COVID-safe plan example and template that may help OTs create their own COVID-safe plan.
3 August, 2020
Premier Andrews this afternoon released a statement on restrictions for business in Victoria. Of note to practitioners, there has been no directive for allied health to cease operations. Under Stage 4 restrictions Allied Health services, including occupational therapy, can remain open for on-site work with a COVID SAFE Plan under the following workplace examples:
- All health services provided within and to support a hospital, registered community health service and publicly funded health service, including student placements.
- Community based services which are based on a referral from a registered medical practitioner (GP and/or medical specialist), including all clinical and allied health services.
- Services requested under a regulatory or education framework; and
- Community based services which are required to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people.
UPDATE: OTA is seeking clarification from DHHS on the above workplace examples to ensure that all occupational therapy services are included. We will provide an update to members as soon as this information is available.
Access the full list of workplace examples, from the Department of Health and Human Services here. All open businesses and services will have until 11:59pm Friday 7 August to enact a COVIDSafe plan focused on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace. For guidance on what is required as part of a COVID-safe plan please visit: https://www.business.vic.gov.au/disputes-disasters-and-succession-planning/covid-safe-business/creating-a-covid-safe-workplace .
OTA recommends occupational therapists in Victoria provide services via telehealth wherever possible. If it is essential to see clients face to face, ensure therapists are abiding by the latest PPE advice which was released today.
IMPORTANT: Updated PPE guidance for all healthcare workers in Victoria
Due to an increased risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) the PPE Taskforce has updated its advice for ALL healthcare workers in Victoria. The updated advice includes information on surgical masks, staffing, eye protection, respirators and extended. This update includes:
MASKS: All staff must wear (at a minimum) a level 1 or type 1 surgical mask while at work. This includes non-public facing staff. Do not use cloth masks at work. Members can source masks online from places such as Chemist Warehouse, Priceline and other retailers.
EYE PROTECTION: (Goggles & Face Shields) - Staff who are directly involved in treating patients/clients must wear eye protection. Members can source face shield and goggles online from places such as RSEA, Med Shop, Pack Queen and other retailers.
Please review the full update here.
Additional Medicare Subsidised Therapy Sessions
The Federal Government announced yesterday that it will provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the media release here.
30 July, 2020
Update for regional Victorians from Daniel Andrews
From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August, face coverings will be compulsory for all Victorians. This is a preventative measure to keep the number of transmissions down in regional Victoria. Read the full statement here.
29 July, 2020
Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads Update
As of Monday 13 July 2020 practical driving test bookings reopened to all Queenslanders. As health and safety remains the priority, several measures are in place including:
- mandatory screening for test participants
- vehicle cleaning requirements
- reinforcement of general health and hygiene measures.
Further information including health and safety requirements for driving tests is available on the Department's website here. All practical driving tests were suspended from 28 March, to limit the spread of COVID-19 and comply with social distancing recommendations from Queensland Health.
27 July, 2020
As of Friday 24 July 2020, NSW Health has escalated PPE controls to a moderate risk level (Amber). This restriction applies to all health care workers in the NSW Local Health Districts (LHDs) and the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network (SCHN). In addition to taking standard PPE precautions, health care workers in these settings are required to wear a surgical mask when providing care within 1.5m of a patient. Patients & visitors are also required to wear masks on presentation and during transit to their appointments. Please note, this advice applies to all hospital and community health settings in the NSW LHDs and in the SCHN.
With the safety of clients and clinicians in mind, OTA recommends that all other NSW based OT clinical services (e.g. private practice) also apply this level of protection during this period of restriction. Please refer to the NSW Health Website for regular COVID-19 updates of this current restriction.
24 July, 2020
OTA has summarised the Department of Healths COVID-19 Response Update for Primary Care and Allied Health Practitioners webinar that was held at 2:30pm on Thursday 23 July. Please see below:
- Clinicians, staff and visitors must not attend residential aged care facilities when sick, even if their symptoms are mild.
- Older Australians, their families and their carers can access information and support through the Older Person’s Advocacy Network on 1800 237 981 or the Department of Health’s Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line on 1800 171 866.
- Under stage 7 of telehealth reforms, GPs must now have an existing and continuous relationship with their client to provide telehealth services.
- This change does not apply to allied health professionals, who may continue to provide telehealth services as normal.
PPE and Infection Control
- Face coverings are now mandatory for all individuals living in Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
- Clinicians in other areas are advised to follow state/territory guidelines and use their clinical judgement to manage the risk of infection. This means:
- Washing hands regularly;
- Following cough and sneeze etiquette;
- Asking symptomatic patients to get tested and not to attend the practice;
- Maintaining 1.5 metre social distance; and
- Where community transmission is significant and social distancing is not possible, wearing a face mask.
(Watch this video from the Department of Health for advice on the correct use of PPE).
- Clinicians who have not already done so are also strongly encouraged to complete the Department of Health’s COVID-19 infection control online training. Register here.
23 July, 2020
Update for members re: NSW/VIC border closure
The Chief Allied Health Officer in NSW has advised AHPA that Service NSW permit advice should soon be updated to explicitly include allied health. This will be allied health by the definition on the AHPA website and NSW Health.
The proposal is that allied health will have the same consideration as doctors, but not get more. This means that anyone who provides services into NSW from Victoria must be from the border 'bubble' and must not stray out of it in NSW. If that person has been providing services outside the border 'bubble' in Victoria they will not be allowed into NSW.
If someone works/lives in NSW in the border bubble they will be allowed to provide services in Victoria as long as they stay within the Victorian part of the bubble. If they provide services such as home visits beyond the bubble they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return.
Members may need to consider how they will manage their services if they are affected (example: suspend service, temporary hand over to another practitioner, or allocate staff to one state or another).
Members are encouraged to advise OTA via firstname.lastname@example.org if these rules will produce serious adverse impacts on client health, and where no alternative can be found.
22 July, 2020
VicRoads have provided their latest update regarding COVID-19 here.
21 July, 2020
Our partners at WorkPlacePLUS have put out an article advising what all Australian health care and aged care employers should consider when taking a proactive and conservative approach to pandemic planning and infection control in your workplace. Read more here.
20 July, 2020
- The Morrison Government today announced a 6-month extension of the JobKeeper wage subsidy at a reduced rate and split into two tiers:
- For eligible employees working more than 20 hours per week, the payment rate will fall to $1,200 per fortnight in September and $1,000 per fortnight in January next year.
- For eligible employees working less than 20 hours per weeks, the payment rate will fall to $750 per fortnight in September and $650 per fortnight in January next year.
- The JobSeeker coronavirus supplement has also been extended. In September it will fall to $250 per fortnight, meaning participants will receive $815 per fortnight.
For more information go to https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/jobkeeper/extension.
19 July, 2020
- The Victorian Premier has announced that face coverings will be mandatory for Melbourne and Mitchell Shire residents when leaving home for one of the four reasons from 11:59pm Wednesday 22 July.
- The Australian and Victorian Governments have announced additional measures to ensure aged care providers are equipped to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and can continue providing quality care.
- The Morrison Government has announced an extension of the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme. Key features include increases in the maximum loan size and term; and extending the purpose of the loans so that a wider range of investment can be funded. Further details here.
14 July, 2020
Aged care staff who work in residential facilities or provide home care support across Victoria’s lock down zones will be required to wear surgical masks following recommendations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). Media release here.
10 July, 2020
The Department of Health has advised that you can leave your home to access allied health services (including occupational therapy) while the Stay at Home directions have been re-introduced by the Victorian Government. Find out more here.
9 July, 2020
The COVID-19 Primary Care and Allied Health webinar was held today. OTA has prepared a one-page summary of the webinar available here.
8 July, 2020
At the Primary Care Response group meeting today Professor Michael Kidd has recommended that all health professionals in Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire seeing any patient for any reason should wear a standard surgical mask. A reminder that an extra 1.5 million masks for AHPs were added to the stockpile a few weeks ago, so applications should be made to the local PHN. The COVID-19 Primary Care and Allied Health webinar is on tomorrow at 2.30pm-3.30pm AEST, where Professor Michael Kidd and panel members will provide further updates and answer questions.
Our Practice Team have been working to answer members enquiries today and have create the following.
OTA recognise that the current stage 3 restrictions in parts of Victoria may raise new questions for clinicians, including considerations when crossing state and council borders to provide therapy to clients. We are following this up as a matter of priority and will provide an update over the coming days when we expect new information to come to hand.
In the meantime, we recommend that you continue to use the best information available to guide your clinical reasoning and decision making by routinely checking state and federal government COVID-19 updates. We also advise you to continue to stay abreast of information relevant to the council areas in which you live and work, including number of COVID-19 cases in those areas. In order to maintain the safety of your clients and yourself you may need to continue to be flexible in the modality you are using to deliver your services. If you are planning to conduct a face-to-face consultation you must adhere to all COVID-19 precautions outlined by state and federal governments and consider the recommendation above to wear a standard surgical mask. You should also inform your client of any risks that you identify in relation to COVID-19 and outline the steps that you are taking to mitigate those risks. It is essential that you have informed consent from your client for the appointment to proceed.
The following resources will help you stay abreast of the most up to date information:
- Victorian Restriction Levels
- Department of Health Coronavirus Advice for the health and Aged Care Sector
- Webinar: COVID-19 response update for primary care and allied health practitioners
Our Advocacy Team has provided the following summary of the latest announcements:
- PM Morrison and Senator Colbeck (the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) addressed the media early this afternoon. Morrison expressed a message of unity with Victorians. Senator Colbeck also announced release of a further 6,100 Home Care Packages (HCPs), supporting older Australians to remain at home longer. See here.
- The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has today confirmed that banks will continue to support customers who need it with up to another four months of deferred repayments on already deferred loans. See here.
- Several Morrison Government measures which came into effect on 1 July are to help Australians transition through the health and economic impacts from COVID-19. See here.
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has foreshadowed further income support beyond the end of September. "There will be another phase of income support, it will be targeted, it will be temporary, it will be designed to get help to people who need it most," he told the ABC. His Government is also considering bringing forward planned cuts to personal income tax. Further details will be announced on 23 July.
7 July, 2020
The New Normal: Navigating Everyday Life During COVID-19
We are pleased to share that the follow-up to the (very) popular ebook "Normal Life Has Been Disrupted" is now available to download and share. Developed by Lorrae Mynard, this new guide (“The New Normal: Navigating Everyday Life During COVID-19”) explores ideas and prompts for reflection to help tailor a new normal that’s right for you. Download the full guide here.
25 June, 2020
HBF temporary telehealth benefits (including occupational therapy) have been extended until 31 December 2020 in response to COVID-19. Learn more about what’s included here.
15 June, 2020
Victoria Driving Assessments
From today (15 June, 2020), the Victorian Government has announced that all light vehicle and computer-based drive tests in Victoria are set to resume. With strict hygiene protocols in place in drive test vehicles, learn more here.
3 June, 2020
Queensland Driving Assessments
The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads have announced that from 15 June 2020, Queensland driver tests will be recommencing for priority bookings. To ensure tests are conducted safely, there will be some new measures in place including a pre-screening health checklist, cleaning and disinfectant procedures. Further information including health and safety requirements for driving tests is available on the Department's website here.
26 May, 2020
Department of Health Webinar
Running this Thursday 28 May, the next Primary Care and Allied Health Practitioners webinar will feature Ms Catherine Turnbull, Professor Michael Kidd, and Ms Alison McMillan. With the panel discussing telehealth, learn more here.
25 May, 2020
Mental Health Care Funding
The Australian Government is providing more than $20 million in additional funding for research to improve mental health care and reduce suicide rates in Australia. Applications for grants of up to $1 million open in June. Learn more here.
22 May, 2020
19 May, 2020
Reopening workplaces – are you ready?
Our partner WorkPlace Plus has prepared an article with key considerations on reopening workplaces. While many businesses are looking forward to the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, workplaces must take important preparatory measures before staff return. Read the blog here.
13 May, 2020
DVA COVID-19 Resources
DVA has prepared a number of resources to help you provide care to veterans during COVID-19. With information on DVA’s telehealth arrangements (including fee item numbers) and support services for veterans (including access to pharmaceuticals and shopping support), learn more here.
8 May, 2020
Returning to School Infographic
With children in several states soon returning to school, OT Kate Woods has developed a helpful OT-informed graphic for parents. Detailing four key ways of assisting children through the transition from virtual to real classroom, download the graphic here.
5 May, 2020
The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (UK) have developed a guide to support the ongoing management of people recovering from COVID-19, with recommendations that can be implemented to the Australian context. Highlighting approaches that may be adapted to ensure a continuum of recovery is addressed, learn more and access the guide here.
29 April, 2020
*OTA Members Save 20%*
The OT Telehealth Summit will bring together 12 highly regarded OTs (including OTA’s very own Carol Jewell) to explore ethical considerations, technical know-how, models of intervention, therapy tools, and more. Launching this Thursday 30 April, learn more and access the discount code here.
20 April, 2020
Latest MBS Telehealth Update 20 April
Occupational Therapy Australia advises that the Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt, has amended telehealth legislation to provide allied health practitioners and other health professionals with the option to bulk-bill or patient-bill a wider range of MBS telehealth consultations.
Allied health practitioners may now charge a co-payment for services provided to children under 16, concession card holders and those vulnerable to COVID-19. These changes come into effect from today (20 April, 2020). More info can be found here.
TAC and Telehealth Update
TAC is now implementing telehealth item codes for occupational therapists. The new rates will allow you to be paid at your current TAC face-to-face rate when you deliver telehealth services to TAC clients. Telehealth items have now been added to LanternPay. Go to lanternpay.com/providers to sign in or register, or visit tac.vic.gov.au/lanternpay for more information.
9 April, 2020
Telehealth Consent Form Template
As per the OTA Telehealth Guidelines it is advised that "You must obtain informed consent from your clients prior to your telehealth session.” OTA has developed a consent form template for OTs to use within their practice. View the document here.
TAC and Telehealth Update
After significant lobbying from OTA, TAC is now implementing telehealth item codes for occupational therapists, GPs and other allied health services. The new telehealth item codes will align to current TAC face-to-face rates & can be backdated to 13 March. Learn more about the changes here.
7 April, 2020
How to Guide for Find an OT Telehealth Update
In this update and how-to guide, OTA’s Lauren Jensen provides an overview of Find an OT’s new telehealth function, and offers a walkthrough on how members can update their listing details. Watch the video here.
6 April, 2020
- From 6 April 2020, it is a legislative requirement that the new telehealth services must be bulk billed for Commonwealth concession card holders, children under 16 years old and patients who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Health providers may apply their usual billing practices to the telehealth items for patients who do not fit the above criteria. Providers are expected to obtain informed financial consent from patients prior to providing the service; providing details regarding their fees, including any out-of-pocket costs.
For more information click here.
Information for all working in residential aged care
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the key medical decision-making committee for health emergencies, has advised that all residential aged care staff and visiting workers should be vaccinated for the flu by 1 May 2020. More information in the media release here.
3 April, 2020
New Telehealth Resource from Dr Kieran Broome
OTA is pleased to share this video from Dr Kieran Broome, Occupational Therapist, academic and private practitioner. Kieran speaks about his experiences using telehealth in occupational therapy practice including some of the opportunities, challenges and recommendations for OTs considering online services. Watch the video here.
Telehealth Guidelines from BUPA
OTA has received Telehealth Guidelines from BUPA to guide your telehealth practice. The private health funds are all independent entities, advised by but not beholden to, Private Healthcare Australia (PHA). OTA has in recent days liaised with AHPA, PHA and individual health funds, outlining those aspects of occupational therapy that can be effectively delivered by Telehealth. We will advise OTA members of each private health fund’s position as we are advised. View the Guidelines here.
Telehealth and Bulk-Bill Update
We are aware that there are concerns about the bulk bill only options under the new MBS Telehealth schedule and how this could render practices unsustainable. We have been advised by AHPA that the Health Department has stated this is a temporary arrangement, to ensure allied health care can be delivered by Telehealth immediately. When Services Australia has updated its billing system, providers will be able to charge a co-payment. Once the technology is in place, a formal announcement to this effect will be made.
2 April, 2020
New Practice Transition Resource
To help practitioners navigate the uncertainty and disruption as a result of COVID-19, we have developed a series of practice transition resources. The resources include helpful links, email templates to share with consumers, social media graphics and more. Freely access and share the page here.
1 April, 2020
DVA Telehealth Announcement
Based on the Federal Governments announcement on further changes to primary and allied healthcare arrangements in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has updated fee schedules to allow all DVA clients to access allied health services via telehealth, where clinically necessary. View the schedules here.
31 March, 2020
Life as an OT During COVID-19: How to be a receiver (and not just a giver) of care
Mental Health OT Caroline Thain has written an article on the need for OTs to also look after their own wellbeing—particularly at the moment. “In order to take care of others who require our support, you must first make sure you are able—physically and mentally—to provide that care.” Read the full article here.
Government Announces Wage Subsidy
The Federal Government released the third stage of its economic plan to support businesses and workers through the coronavirus outbreak. This package builds on existing support delivered by all arms of Government, now totalling more than $320 billion. View OTA’s summary here
Incorrect Placement of CDM Item
Please note that the fact sheet issued yesterday from the Health Department was flawed, incorrectly placing the OT Chronic Disease Management item. The fact sheet relating to COVID-19 telehealth items for allied health has now been updated. Access the fact sheet here.
30 March, 2020
Free Q&A: Normal Life Has Been Disrupted
OTA are pleased to offer this free online Q&A session with Lorrae Mynard “Normal Life has Been Disrupted”, being held at 7pm tonight (30 March). As we have limited spaces, registrations are currently open to members. The session will be recorded and made available to the broader allied health community. More info here: http://ow.ly/TQfQ50yZ5Ma
Expansion to MBS Telehealth Services
The Hon Greg Hunt has announced the Australian Government is expanding Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians. This means that those MBS items currently delivered face to face by OTs can be delivered by telehealth, including chronic disease management, autism and eating disorders. While this is a positive outcome from the considerable advocacy work in recent weeks, AHPA and OTA will continue to advocate for more funding support for OTs and allied health services. Read the full media statement.
27 March, 2020
Telehealth Billing Details Updated
OTA have updated their telehealth resource page including billing details for DVA, NDIS, Medicare and the state compensable schemes we currently have available. We are waiting for more information from the Department of Health regarding further allied health rebates. View the updates here.
Important Update from NDIA
The latest newsletter from NDIA includes information regarding an advance payment for eligible providers. This advance payment is interest-free and will create a debt to the NDIA. You will need to opt out by 5pm AEDT today (27 March) by sending the word "NO" or "OPT OUT" in the subject line to email@example.com. Should a provider miss the opt out deadline they can contact the NDIA National Contact Centre to ask for an invoice to be made out so they can make a repayment. More information about how the payment is calculated and who is eligible can be found here.
26 March, 2020
Telehealth Update from The Hon Greg Hunt
Greg Hunt anticipates rollout of “whole-of population telehealth capacity – that means for mental health, allied health, general practice” by Monday of next week. Read the full transcript here.
AHPRA Perth Office Temporarily Closed
AHPRA has temporarily closed its Perth office but continues to operate over the phone and online. Read more here.
Remote Area Travel Restrictions
Travel restrictions for remote areas commence 11:59pm tonight. Those delivering essential services are exempt. Read more here.
Better Access to Mental Health Update from OTA
We will be prioritising Better Access to Mental Health (BAMH) applications for clinicians seeking to provide BAMH telehealth services. Please refer our BAMH webpage for details of the application process, the eligibility criteria and the evidence required for endorsement as a BAMH clinician. To avoid any delay, please make sure you have provided all information required before submitting your application. Please contact OTA if you have any queries.
Department of Health Letter to Allied Health Professionals
The Department of Health has released a letter to Allied Health Professionals to give an update on the current situation. The letter covers the following topics:
- Situation as at 25 March 2020
- Disease characteristics
- Current approach to response
- Reducing exposure in health care settings
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Gyms used for clinical treatment
The Role of Health Scienced Students in the COVID-19 Workforce
The Australian Council of Deans of Health Sciences has issued a statement on the role of health sciences students in the COVID-19 workforce. “Students in their clinical years constitute the immediate future health care workforce. It is clear that health sciences students should not be involved in high risk and high stress areas within health services. However, there is a range of roles and functions that health sciences students can contribute to supporting the health workforce both now during the pandemic and as the nation looks to recovery.”
Read the full document, including key principles (such as safety, role clarity, competency, student choice and more) to guide discussions and decisions.
25 March, 2020
Department of Health provides updates on protecting older Australians
The Department of Health has released a newsletter with advice on protecting older Australians.
The update includes:
- New process for ordering PPE supplies for Aged Care Sector
- New eLearning module for Aged Care workers now online
- Advice on visit guidelines
- Mental health resources
24 March, 2020
Expansion of Telehealth Services
The Hon Greg Hunt has released a joint media statement with information about the expansion of telehealth services. Please view the statement for information about our current stage 3 status.
Update From the OTA Board re COVID-19
Yesterday’s COVID-19 email update to members (with the policy position of the federal government and advice provided by our Professional Practice Team) has created some confusion. We have sought clarification from our OTA Board of Directors who advise members to follow relevant health department advice and also to use their judgement guided by experience, tailored to the resources available, with the safety of all at front of mind. We ask OTs to continue to innovate in how they deliver their services in the safest way possible. Read the Board’s full position here.
Find an OT Now Supports Telehealth
We have updated our Find an OT tool to enable members to promote their telehealth services. When searching for an OT, consumers can opt for telehealth options in their state, or face-to-face options near their suburb. Members can update their details and workplace (i.e. their Find an OT listing) by logging in here.
Update from DVA
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has provided an update regarding COVID-19. Note that this is not the anticipated schedule of telehealth items for allied health professionals working with veterans—an initiative OTA will continue to advocate for. Read the update here.
23 March, 2020
Just Launched: OTA Telehealth Guidelines 2020
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and changes in delivery of health services, OTA has released these guidelines to support members in their transition to telehealth practice. You can find the resource on our Telehealth page.
Update from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt
OTA has just 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, 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 the come to hand
Update after the weekends news
We fully appreciate yesterday’s news causes more alarm and anxiety for OTs. The definition of nonessential services currently is limited. We're seeking clarification on the effect of this shutdown on OT services & will provide updates as soon as we can. We continue to strongly advocate for this vital profession. We will also be releasing new Telehealth resources today. Thank you.
20 March, 2020
Occupational Therapist and OTA Member Lorrae Mynard has published the ebook - Normal life has been disrupted: a guide for managing disruption to occupational participation. The guide presents occupational concepts of productivity, leisure, self-care, environment, routine and roles in plain language and presents suggestions and examples of how to adapt and manage the disruption to occupational participation. It was designed for use by the general public. Occupational therapists may find it a useful resource for supporting consumers with managing the present situation, and for sharing with others in their own personal and professional networks. An accompanying pdf poster is available to promote the guide. The link and/or pdf guide and poster may be shared freely. Please access these resources here.
OTA CPD and Events
*#OTexchange2020 to be Delivered Online* In light of advice regarding the cancellation of non-essential mass gatherings, the OT Exchange 2020 will now be adapted into a virtual conference. The virtual OT Exchange will still take place on 22-23 June 2020, but through an online platform. We are working with keynote speakers, presenters and exhibitors to adapt the existing program and deliver you a high quality learning and networking experience. For more information, visit the website here.
19 March, 2020
Letter from the CEO
“On behalf of OTA, I am acutely aware that occupational therapists, working as many do with physically vulnerable clients, are being particularly hard hit by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Read the letter from OTA’s CEO on COVID-19 here.
OTA has been advised by AHPA that thanks to concerted lobbying by the sector over the past few days, allied health will now be included in the Federal Government’s ongoing deliberations around Telehealth and COVID-19. It is anticipated that the next meeting in this process will be convened late this week or early next week. This is an important step forward for allied health professionals and their clients. Stay informed on our COVID-19 resources page.