COVID-19: Guidance on Restrictions for Metro and Regional Vic OTs
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.
The guidance outlines which allied health professions can provide services and under what circumstances. The intention of the easing is to provide a broader range of consumers with access to services, while still focusing on the need to reduce movement and face-to-face interactions wherever possible.
We're pleased to see a recognition of the need to see not only clients with a recognised need for services, but also for the need to be able to undertake assessment and diagnosis as part of the triaging work that OTs and allied health professionals are currently undertaking to manage their client's health needs.
We appreciate what a challenging time this has been for our Victorian members and extend our heartfelt thank you for the support you have shown the association, your peers and your community.
The Victorian Government has announced that from 28 September “AHPRA-registered 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.”
This means OTs in metropolitan Melbourne will be able to provide essential face to face services from 28 September;
- 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)
- For assessment and diagnostic purposes for those people whose care has been delayed during stage 4 restrictions, and where further delay likely to result in deterioration (e.g. diagnostic imaging and assessment for prescription of assistive technology)
- To provide essential pre-operative or post-operative elective surgery care
We encourage all practitioners to continue to use telehealth as the first option for care delivery where appropriate. Routine care and regular monitoring, other than via telehealth, are not permitted during the second step and practitioners should continue to delay services that can safely be delayed until Step 3. When determining whether a service can no longer be delayed, you will need to use your clinical judgement to ensure the service is essential to preventing deterioration and an escalation in care needs.
We have been advised that those practitioner groups providing services within a permitted workplace during stage four (such as a public hospital, aged care or mental health setting) will remain permitted to do so under Step 2 guidelines. However, practitioners should continue to apply clinical reasoning and only see those patients/clients face to face to prevent a significant change/deterioration in functional independence which would result in an escalation of care needs.
When metropolitan Melbourne reaches the threshold for step 3, (indicative modelling suggests this will be around 26 October), people in metropolitan Melbourne will be able to recommence seeing their allied health provider or other primary health care provider for all elements of their health care needs, except for indoor group classes.
Read the full statement from Donna Markham–Chief Allied Health Officer, Safer Care Victoria.
We wish to highlight that while the Chief Allied Health Officer has written to provide guidance around allied health restrictions as part of Step 2, all decisions relating to the easing of restrictions are made independent of the Chief Allied Health Officer and Allied Health Workforce Team. If you have further questions or concerns specific restrictions, we recommend that you contact Business Victoria - Coronavirus (COVID-19) business support and the Industry Coordination Centre on 13 22 15.
From 11:59pm Wednesday 16 September, Third Step Restrictions apply throughout regional Victoria.
This means that OTs in Regional Victoria can provide face to face service for all elements of their health care needs, except for indoor group classes.
OTs in metro and regional Victoria will need to use the appropriate level of PPE when treating clients. This currently includes a level 1 surgical face mask and eye protection. View the DHHS guidance on PPE here.
To recommence, practice providers will need to ensure that they have a COVIDSafe plan. Visit the Business Victoria website for information on creating your COVIDSafe Plan.
The TAC has now announced it will extend funding of 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. TAC telehealth rates allow you to be paid at your TAC face-to-face rate when telehealth services are delivered to our clients. Provider guidelines for the delivery of telehealth can be found on the TAC website.
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.
Wellbeing and Support
During this time it has never been more important to focus on the mental wellbeing of ourselves and our families. As we are on the cusp of World Mental Health Day (10 October 2020) we reflect on their simple but important message to ‘Look after your mental health, Australia’. You may wish to vist our Wellbeing page or the Mental Health Australia website www.lookafteryourmentalhealthaustralia.org.au for support and resources.
As OTA continues to meet with DHHS we will bring you regular announcements. Please continue to view our COVID-19 latest updates webpage and social media channels for updates.