OTA COVID-19 Update: 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.
Accordingly, we have been working closely with Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) to lobby the Federal Government for the immediate expansion of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) to enable as many allied health services as possible to be delivered by means of telehealth. This will ensure vulnerable clients will not have to present physically at their health professional’s rooms, thereby minimising the risk of infection, while still receiving the ongoing care they need. OTA lends its weight to AHPA’s efforts because experience proves that government is more likely to respond to calls from the allied health sector than those from individual associations.
And there have been some successes. OTA members working in mental health as part of the Better Access to Mental Health scheme will be aware of the recent announcement that services for clients deemed particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 may now be delivered by telehealth. We can report that dialogue is ongoing between AHPA and the Health Minister’s office around the possible extension of telehealth to a much wider range of allied health services.
We understand that success in this space may translate to an extension of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) telehealth items, as DVA’s schedule of services usually reflects the MBS.
AHPA also advises that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is soon likely to update its guidance for providers and participants, and that this guidance will be around the agency’s telehealth provisions. Telehealth is available as an option for providers and providers can engage with participants and families now. Visit this page for general information and check for updates regularly.
OTA is writing directly to the Ministers for Health, Disability and Veterans’ Affairs to support the immediate extension of telehealth services. We are also writing to the Minister for Small Business, noting the particular vulnerability of occupational therapy private practices to the effects of COVID-19.
In addition to an OTA telehealth resource currently in development, we have compiled a number of helpful online resources and FAQs here, and continue to update this page.