Latest Updates

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve, please refer to your local health authority for the latest procedures and guidelines. As OTA receives further updates and information relating to occupational therapists, we will update the sections below. Please click to expand the section most relevant to you.

9 April, 2021
Important update on the COVID-19 vaccination program from Dr Kerryn Coleman, ACT Chief Health Officer
You may be aware that last night the Commonwealth Government accepted new
recommendations from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI)
about the COVID-19 vaccines.

That advice is that the Pfizer vaccine is currently preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine for
adults aged under 50 years of age who have not already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

ATAGI has issued this advice after noting further evidence of a rare, but serious side effect
involving blood clotting (thrombosis) with low blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
following AstraZeneca vaccination.

In response to the announcements, the ACT Government has made adjustments to its clinics,effective today 9 April 2021, to implement the ATAGI advice.

Anyone over 50 years of age who is booked in for an AstraZeneca vaccination will still receive this vaccine, as recommended by ATAGI. Anyone under 50 years of age who has a first dose AstraZeneca appointment booked in will be offered a Pfizer vaccination.

Please refer to the consumer information on the AstraZeneca vaccine. COVID-19 vaccination – Information on COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine | Australian Government Department of Health.

Providing access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines continues to be the ACT Government’s priority. We will continue work closely with the Commonwealth Government and I will keep you updated as new information becomes available.

In the meantime, I encourage you to stay up to date on the evolving situation by visiting the
Commonwealth Government’s COVID-19 vaccine website. Further information and advice will also be available on the ACT Government COVID-19 website.

17 March, 2021
A Public Health Emergency remains in place in the ACT for the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACT Chief Health Officer provides regular updates to health professionals working in ACT and can be accessed here. OTA recommends you routinely check this website for updates.

The ACT COVID website has useful information and resources for individuals, businesses and health providers. For Telehealth resources click here. 

25 March, 2021
We are pleased to advise you that all health care providers will be included in Phase 1b of the National COVID-19 vaccine roll out.

This includes:

  • Allied health professionals providing healthcare in public and private health care settings, and in private practice
  • All health care workers in clinical settings, including students on placement
  • All workers providing in-home, community and centre-based care in disability and aged care
  • Workers who regularly engage in person with those receiving aged care or those with a disability in phase 1a or 1b (including aged care assessment workforce, those conducting regulatory activities and advocacy services)
  • Onsite administrative staff in healthcare settings
  • Cleaners, kitchen staff and other ancillary staff in healthcare settings

Phase 1b vaccination sites are available by appointment only and proof of occupation with be required to demonstrate eligibility (e.g., ID card, letter from employer or an Eligibility Declaration Form).

Further details are available on the COVID-19 vaccination web page.

24 March, 2021
DVA Extends Temporary Telehealth Arrangements

In line with the Government’s extension to temporary telehealth arrangements, DVA has also extended its temporary telehealth arrangements to 30 June 2021. All relevant allied health fee schedules will be updated with the new end date of 30 June 2021 for the telehealth items. Learn more about DVA’s COVID-19 arrangements here.

10 March, 2021
OTA Endorses Ahpra COVID-19 Vaccination Position Statement
Ahpra has published a joint statement to help registered health practitioners and students understand what’s expected of them in giving, receiving and advising on information about COVID-19 vaccines. OTA endorses the statement, which, as the national vaccination program gets underway, encourages registered health practitioners and students to:

  • Be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless medically contraindicated
  • Be appropriately qualified and trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines if authorised
  • Provide accurate information and advice about COVID-19 vaccination including in social media and advertising

Read Ahpra’s full update and access the statement here. Ahpra is also providing a free COVID-19 Vaccination Q&A session next week with leading researchers to provide further clarification on the vaccination rollout. We are also pleased to provide the Australian Government's Department of Health update on protecting older Australians.

20 January, 2021
Vaccine Rollout
We are pleased that the Federal Government recently announced its COVID-19 vaccination rollout roadmap in which occupational therapists will be prioritised.

Understandably, Phase 1a includes staff working in quarantine facilities, frontline health care workers (i.e. those working directly with COVID-19 positive patients or potential patients) in hospitals, and respiratory clinics. Staff and contractors working in residential aged care facilities and disability group home settings are also scheduled to receive the vaccine when it first becomes available.

This group will be followed a few weeks later by Phase 1b which will include GPs, dentists and some allied health workers. Other allied health professionals will be vaccinated under Phase 2a (other critical and high-risk workers). In recent meetings with the Department of Health it is still unclear how allied health will be defined as the finer details in this plan are still being worked out. Once we have this clarification we will let you know.

Unfortunately, the rollout of these vaccines will not just flip a switch and return everything to 'normal'. Vaccinating a significant number of people in Australia (and worldwide) to achieve herd immunity will take time, so infection control will continue to remain important this year.

4 January, 2021
COVID-19 New Medicare Items
We are pleased to advise that new COVID-19 Temporary MBS items have been created for select Allied Health services provided within Residential Aged Care Facilities. These items are outlined in the MBS Changes Factsheet. Further details are available on the Commonwealth Government–Department of Health ‘MBS Online’ webpage.

16 April , 2021
There are currently no cases of community transmission in NSW and no close
or casual contact locations in NSW.

The Chief Health Officer advises that as of 13th April 2021, health professionals are not required to wear a surgical mask during home visits in NSW as outlined here. 

Updated advice for Residential Aged Care Facilities and Residential Disability Care Facilities has been provided as of 13 April 2021 for staff, residents and visitors. The advice includes visitor access; screening of staff and visitors; arrangements for group recreation and other activities for residents.

While we will make every effort to keep you informed we are mindful that advice in these circumstances is subject to change. We recommend you routinely check the NSW Health COVID website for further updates.

1 April , 2021
COVID-19 advice has been updated as of 31 March 2021 for staff, residents and visitors of Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF) and Residential Disability Care Facilities (RDCF).

The updated advice for RACF and RDCF is provided given ongoing community transmission in areas of Qld and areas of increased testing in NSW.

The key messages if you are working in these settings are:

  • Staff who have been to close contact locations in Queensland and close contact locations in NSW must not work until they have completed their 14 day self-isolation
  • Staff must self-isolate until they receive a negative test and wear a surgical mask until further notice if they have been to:
    • Greater Brisbane areas including Brisbane City, Moreton Bay, Logan, Ipswich and Redlands in the last 14 days
    • Any of Queensland’s casual contact locations at the dates and times listed
    • Any NSW casual contact locations at the dates and times listed
  • All staff in facilities in the Northern NSW locations of Ballina LGA, Byron Bay LGA, Lismore LGA and Tweed LGA must wear a surgical mask when at work. For the remainder of NSW, masks are only required if you have been to these locations.
  • Staff should not enter any care facility in NSW if they:
    • have COVID-19 symptoms - fever (37. 5°C or higher) or symptoms of COVID-19
    • are a close contact of a person confirmed with COVID within their self-isolation period
    • live in a household with a person who is currently self-isolating
    • are waiting for a COVID-19 test result.

31 March, 2021
COVID-19 advice for Home Care Service providers has been updated as of 31 March 2021. The updated advice pertains to all allied health services delivered in people’s homes. View more information here.

The key messages for this update are:

  • In Queensland there is ongoing community transmission within the Greater Brisbane area including Brisbane City, Moreton Bay, Logan, Ipswich and Redlands
  • There are areas of increased testing in NSW and close and casual contact locations.
  • Staff who have been to close contact locations in Queensland and close contact locations in NSW must not work until they have completed their 14 day self-isolation
  • Staff must self-isolate until they receive a negative test and wear a surgical mask until further notice if they have been to:
    o Greater Brisbane areas including Brisbane City, Ipswich, Logan, Moreton Bay and Redlands
    o Any of Queensland’s casual contact locations at the dates and times listed in the last 14 days
    o Have been to any NSW locations listed in the casual contact locations at the dates and times listed
  • All staff in the Northern NSW locations of Ballina LGA, Byron Bay LGA, Lismore LGA and Tweed LGA must wear a surgical mask when at work. For the remainder of NSW, masks are only required if you have been to these locations.

13 March, 2021
Advice to home care providers. Staff are not required to wear a surgical mask during home visits in NSW. Providers should minimise staff working across multiple settings (such as in home and residential care) and ensure staff actively ask clients about symptoms on arrival. The Commonwealth Department of Health has issued a  Guide for Home Care Providers to assist staff in reducing the risk of COVID-19. NSW has provided Guidance for risk screening and assessment for home visiting health services which includes allied health. OTA recommends that occupational therapists follow this advice.

We recommend you make use of telehealth services where possible. For Telehealth resources click here. We also recommend that you carry out a COVID screen and implement a COVID Safe Plan for any essential face to face services that are indicated.

While we will make every effort to keep you informed we are mindful that advice in these circumstances is subject to change. We recommend you routinely check the NSW Health COVID website for further updates.

11 March, 2021
Updated advice for Residential Aged Care Facilities for staff, residents, families, visitors and visiting health professionals and contractors. Residential aged care facilities are now required to consider the advice of the Chief Health Officer in their visitor and access policies and requirements including in the management of visitors; screening of staff and visitors; arrangements for group recreation and other activities for residents and; wearing of face masks by staff and visitors.

3 February, 2021
When there is active community transmission, general practitioners and other primary health care professionals should wear a mask for all clinical encounters.  NSW Health staff must follow the advice of local infection control staff and the Clinical Excellence Commission guidance in the Response and Escalation Framework. This framework outlines recommended actions for health professionals, clients, carers and visitors when there are low, moderate and high levels of community transmission. This advice applies to hospital and community health settings and is supported by expert risk assessments. OTA recommend that this advice is applied in all health settings. 

4 January, 2021
COVID-19 NSW:
 Updated advice for health professionals as of 22 December 2020
Given the current outbreak of local transmission, NSW Health advises that all NSW local health districts and specialty health networks move to amber risk level from Friday 18 December 2020. All health workers should wear a surgical mask if they are within 1.5m of patients. Patients are also required to wear a mask (surgical or own cloth mask), where possible. This advice applies to hospital and community health settings and is supported by expert risk assessments. For more info view the COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Response and Escalation Framework here.

OTA recommend that this advice is applied in all health settings.

We recommend you make use of telehealth services where possible. We also recommend that you carry out a COVID screen and implement a COVID Safe Plan for any essential face to face services that are indicated. While we will make every effort to keep you informed we are mindful that advice in these circumstances is subject to change.  We recommend you routinely check the NSW Health COVID website for further updates.

For Telehealth resources click here.

19 March, 2021
Northern Territory Public Health Emergency remains in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic along with related Chief Health Officer (CHO) directions. 

Travel Restrictions apply in the NT
The NT CHO has made a direction that any person who has arrived, or is yet to arrive, in the Northern Territory MUST be tested for COVID-19 if they were in any of the Brisbane ‘high risk’ locations or the Sydney locations or travelled on Sydney public transport, on or about the relevant times and dates listed on the NT Government COVID-19 advice webpages. All persons required to be tested MUST get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours and self-quarantine until they have had a test and until a negative test is returned.

Business Guidelines and Safety Plans
All businesses operating in the NT are required to lodge a COVID-19 Safety Plan by filling out the relevant checklists available. The NT CHO is introducing new directions that require businesses to review their COVID-19 Safety Plan every six months, appoint a COVID Safety Supervisor and collect customer contact details to assist with contact tracing to keep Territorians safe.

Support for Health Professionals
The Northern Territory phn and Rural Workforce Agency NT have a website dedicated to the support of NT health professionals including allied health providers across education, telehealth, wellbeing, updates and referraly pathways. 

OTA recommends you routinely check the NT Government COVID-19 website for updates.

15 April, 2021
From 6 am Thursday 15 April 2021 the previous requirement for all Queenslander's to wear a mask indoors has been lifted. However, masks are recommended for clinicians in healthcare settings and private practice when social distancing is not possible.  

All geographic areas in Queensland are now considered 'low risk' for PPE usage.

Please continue to refer to the Queensland Health website for guidance on PPE for your practice setting.

6 April, 2021
A reminder to clinicians to continue to monitor the Queensland Health website and follow the guidance for face masks and PPE as follows: 

Face Masks

  • From 1 April to 15 April individuals across Queensland must carry a face mask with them at all times when leaving home, unless they have a lawful reason not to.
  • A mask must be worn in indoor spaces, including health care settings and allied health private practices, and indoor workplaces (where it is safe to wear a mask and you can’t physically distance). Allied health professionals must also wear a mask when indoors attending a home visit. Consumers are not required to wear a mask when receiving care in their own home.

PPE

Five Local Government Areas (LGAs) continue to be identified in the “moderate” risk category for the purposes of determining appropriate PPE.

  • Brisbane City Council
  • Moreton Bay Regional Council
  • Logan City Council
  • Redland City Council
  • Ipswich City Council
  • Rockhampton Regional Council
  • Gladstone Regional Council

All other LGAs remain in the ‘low’ risk category. It is important to note, however, that all residential aged care facilities and disability residential care facilities throughout Queensland must also implement “moderate” precautions.

As previously emphasised, clinicians should refer to the setting-specific guidance for PPE as outlined on the Queensland Health Website.

1 April, 2021
We are pleased to hear that the 3-day lockdown in Queensland will be lifted from 12pm Friday 1 April. The state will return back to COVIDSafe normal with the most recent public mask wearing directions in place and continuance of visitor restrictions to Aged Care, HHS, Disability Accommodation and Correctional Services.

While we will make every effort to keep you informed the OTA office will be closed during the Easter break and the COVID-19 situation can change rapidly. Clinicians should monitor the Queensland Health website for updated guidance on restrictions and additional information about the requirements for PPE.

31 March, 2021
We would like to provide further information to members on the current lockdown restrictions in Greater Brisbane (Brisbane City, Moreton Bay, Logan City, Redland City, Ipswich City).

Occupational therapists working in lockdown areas are considered essential workers during this lockdown period. Attending a health care appointment is one of the reasons for leaving home and these businesses are still permitted to operate. However, it is strongly encouraged that non-urgent appointments are rescheduled or telehealth is used where possible. PPE guidelines must be adhered to for all face-to-face consultations. Physical distancing must be observed where possible.

Please note, clients who live outside the impacted areas are only able to travel into the impacted areas to receive healthcare from a Hospital and Health Service, a private health facility or from a prescribed health practitioner or registered NDIS provider under an agreed NDIS plan. Clients who enter the moderate risk area to receive healthcare treatment must adhere to the lockdown rules for the duration of the lockdown period when they return to their place of residence outside of the lockdown area. This includes only leaving their house for permitted purposes and wearing a mask when doing so.

The OTA office will be closed during the Easter break and the COVID-19 situation can change rapidly. Clinicians should monitor the Queensland Health website for updated guidance on restrictions and additional information about the requirements for PPE.

30 March, 2021
Please find below a summary of the most recent COVID-19 advice from the CHO on the 29th March.

The following Local Government Areas (LGAs) have now been determined by the Chief Health Officer to be in the “moderate” risk category.
• Brisbane City Council
• Moreton Bay Regional Council
• Logan City Council
• Redland City Council
• Ipswich City Council
• Rockhampton Regional Council
• Gladstone Regional Council

If you live or work in any of these “moderate” risk areas you need to follow the moderate risk requirements related to the setting you work in.  This also includes when you are moving into or between any “low” risk areas. 

All people across Queensland working in RACF and Disability Accommodation services must also follow “moderate” precautions regardless of LGA. 

All other LGAs are considered “low” risk.

Queensland clinicians should refer to specific setting-based guidance as outlined on the Queensland Health website for Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including guidance for the following clinical settings:

• Residential Aged Care and Disability Accommodation Services
• Correctional Services
• Community Health Services and In-home Care Settings
• Healthcare delivery (General)

During this lockdown period we recommend that you provide telehealth services where possible. 

While we will make every effort to keep you informed the OTA office will be closed during the Easter break and the COVID-19 situation can change rapidly. Clinicians should monitor the Queensland Health website for updated guidance on restrictions and additional information about the requirements for PPE

29 March, 2021
Queensland Health have advised that Greater Brisbane will enter a 3-day lockdown from 5pm today AEST 29 March to 5pm AEST Thursday 1 April. The lockdown is in response to new cases of community transmission in the Greater Brisbane region.

Anyone living or working in Brisbane City, Moreton Bay Regional, Ipswich City, Logan City and Redland City local government areas, or who has visited those areas since March 20 will be required to comply with the 3-day lockdown restrictions.

Clinicians living and working in Greater Brisbane are required to wear a surgical mask and protective eyewear for all routine care for non-covid-19 clients (within 1.5m).  Please refer to Queensland Health’s Pandemic Response Guidance on PPE for further details. During this period, clients should also be wearing a mask indoors. 

During this 3-day lockdown period we recommend that you provide telehealth services where possible.

Clinicians should monitor the Queensland Health website for updated guidance on contract tracing alerts and escalated requirements for PPE.  

26 March, 2021
Brisbane & Moreton Bay PPE requirements escalated
As from noon on Friday 26 March 2021, the City of Brisbane and Moreton Bay Region will be reclassified as a Moderate COVID-19 risk by the Queensland Government. This change in classification is in response to a case of community transmission being identified in Brisbane. All health and care professionals within the City of Brisbane and Moreton Bay Region are now required to wear a surgical mask and protective eyewear in the routine care of non-COVID-19 patients (in addition to standard precautions). Further details on these requirements are available in Queensland Health’s Pandemic Response Guidance on PPE.

Clinicians who live or work in affected areas, who also work in other facilities or areas outside of the City of Brisbane and Moreton Bay Region should also comply with the moderate COVID-19 PPE requirements outlined above. 

All other LGA's remain in the 'low risk' category. Further information is available on the Queensland Health website

19 March, 2021
OTA is pleased to hear the guidance from Queensland Health that from 12pm today, 19 March 2021, all geographic areas will be low risk for PPE usage. Further information can be found here.

15 March, 2021: Updated PPE Guidance for Greater Brisbane to ‘moderate risk’
Public Health Alert has been issued for parts of Brisbane in relation to the confirmed case of COVID-19 from Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Queensland Health has also announced that all non-essential visits to hospitalsresidential aged care facilitiesdisability accommodation services and correctional facilities in Greater Brisbane have ceased as of noon 13 March and will be reviewed on Tuesday 16 March.

Health professionals working in these facilities in the cities of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan and Redland and the Moreton Bay Region, are to escalate the use of PPE to ‘moderate risk’.

Anyone attending these facilities in Greater Brisbane, including staff, must wear a mask.

In addition to these specific settings, personnel who work in facilities in the affected area who also work in other facilities outside the escalated LGAs should follow the requirement for escalated PPE.

At this stage, Queensland’s public health emergency remains in place until 31 March 2021. While we will make every effort to keep you informed, the COVID-19 situation can change rapidly, we recommend you routinely check the Queensland Government website for further updates.

29 January, 2021
Queensland Health has confirmed that as of 22 January 2021, all geographic areas in Queensland are now designated 'low risk' for PPE usage. The following links will provide more information for practitioners:

Recommended PPE according to COVID-19 risk levels can be found in the Queensland Health document 'Pandemic Response Guidance: Personal protective equipment in healthcare delivery' here.

20 January, 2021
The Queensland Government has still recommended healthcare workers in the local government areas affected by the lockdown apply moderate risk PPE escalation until Friday 22 January 1am.

11 January, 2021
The Queensland Government have confirmed that eased restrictions for Greater Brisbane will be in place from 6pm 11 January to 1am 22 January. You may continue to provide services with a Covid Safe Plan in place, using PPE appropriate to your setting  and adhering to the density quotas outlined by the Queensland Government (one person per 4 square metres on their premises indoors; one person per 2 square metres outdoors; and, businesses with a floor space less than 200 square metres can have one person per 2 square metres, up to 50 people at a time.

Restrictions remain in place for visitors to:

While we will make every effort to keep you informed, the COVID-19 situation can change rapidly, we recommend you routinely check the Queensland Government website for further updates.

17 March, 2021
Updated South Australian government advice was issued on 17 March 2021 for employees and contractors in high risk settings or high risk locations across SA including medi-hotels:

  • employers must not engage staff who have been employees at a medi-hotel over at other sites for a subsequent 14 days (exceptions are in place for Police, SA Health, Border Force and Defence Force staff) including those involved in front of house, cleaning and security duties
  • employees at high risk settings must inform their employer of any additional work and specifically if this work is at a medi-hotel
  • South Australians must not undertake work that requires them to be at a high-risk setting if they have provided services to the operator of a medi-hotel within 14 days

High Risk Settings are defined as:

  • residential aged care facilities (as defined in the RACF #29 Direction 2021)
  • places of custody including prisons, correctional facilities and training centres
  • health care services (as noted in schedule 2 of the Emergency Management Direction / Public Activities #18 and any subsequent updates)
  • land comprising an Aboriginal community 

Mask use:

  • When there is active community transmission, general practitioners and other primary health care professionals should wear a mask for all clinical encounters. 
  • SA Health staff must follow the advice of dedicated local infection control staff and Covid-19 specific practice management frameworks.

OTA recommends that occupational therapists make use of telehealth services where possible. Telehealth information has been provided by the SA Government. We also recommend that you carry out a COVID screen and implement a COVID-Safe Plan for any essential face to face services that are indicated. 

Mental Health support:

  • service to assist anyone affected by the impact of Covid-19 can access a wide range of supports a summary of some Mental Health support services is highlighted on the SA Health information pages found here
  • additionally there is a dedicated Mental Health Support Line service available from 8 am to 8 pm 7 days a week - 1800 632 753

While we will make every effort to keep you informed we are mindful that advice in these circumstances is subject to change. We recommend you routinely check the SA Health COVID-19 website for further updates.

4 January, 2021
SA Health has produced a PPE Guide for Allied Health Professionals. The Guide provides a process for risk assessment as well as usage and infection control guidelines for community based services. Private Providers are advised that they are responsible for sourcing PPE to ensure they have adequate provisions for any potential future outbreaks of infection. 

Updates on restrictions under the SA State of Emergency Declaration can be found on the SA Health Covid-19 pages, we recommend you routinely check these pages for further updates. 

13 April, 2021
The updated guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19) - PPE for Allied Health in Private Practice Settings (30 March 2021) is now available via the Business Victoria website

6 April, 2021
We are pleased to advise that the CAHO has updated their guidance on PPE for Allied Health in Private Practice Settings. In summary, the use of PPE in private practice settings is recommended rather than mandated. This guidance will be uploaded to the Business Victoria website in the coming days. Further information is available on the DHHS website

25 March, 2021
VIC PPE Update
We are pleased to advise that from 6pm on Friday 26 March, masks will no longer be required in some settings. Victorians will still need to carry a mask with them at all times and they are still required to wear one in sensitive settings such as aged care facilities and hospitals. We have contacted DHHS for further clarification on whether masks are still required in private practice settings and we will update you as soon as we receive this clarification.

We recommend you go to the Victorian Premier’s announcement and the DHHS Chief Health Officer’s daily update for more detailed information on these updates.

23 March, 2021
Current restrictions on allied health and other primary health services
All businesses need to know their obligations and ensure they understand the current restrictions in place throughout Victoria. Victoria moved to COVIDSafe settings from 11:59 pm on Friday 26 February 2021. These restrictions w ill be reviewed regularly, to
ensure they reflect current public health advice. You must stay up to date with any changes for your industry.

Industry Restart Guidelines have been prepared to assist workplaces to operate safely, in accordance with the changing of restrictions, while ensuring the public feels confident that their health and safety is being protected. Workplaces covered include
occupational therapy. 

Under directions issued under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, all Victorian workplaces in this industry must abide by the following restrictions.

Download the Industry Restart Guidelines - Allied Health COVIDSafe Settings document here.

17 February, 2021
We are very pleased to advise you that the 5 day Victoria ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown has been lifted and restrictions will ease as of 11.59pm Wednesday 17 February. What this means for you:

  • You will be able to return to face to face practice with your COVIDSafe plan in place
  • Masks are required for all staff, clients, and visitors indoors, and outdoors where social distancing cannot be adhered to
  • Revert to your COVIDSafe plan and adhere to density quotas
  • Visitors to hospitals and aged care homes are limited to one household per day (with some specific exceptions)
  • We recommend that you be vigilant with your client screening, particularly of those associated with the cluster for the next 9 days.

Please refer to the Victorian Government’s updated COVIDSafe Summer document for full restriction details. OTA will continue to provide any further advice and updates as they come to hand.

15 February, 2021
The Chief Health Officer has advised that the Essential Workers list has been updated, and the following student clinical placements can recommence from Sunday 14 February 2021:

  • allied health
  • medical
  • nursing and midwifery
  • paramedics.

Remaining student placements will be advised by Wednesday 17 February 2021. 

Please note the following guidance has been updated to reflect these updates: 210212 - Table of restrictions.pdf (premier.vic.gov.au)

12 February, 2021
As you may be aware, due to this new strain of the COVID-19 virus circuit-breaker actions will be in place in Victoria as of 11.59pm tonight (Friday 12 February) till 11.59pm Wednesday 17 February.

We have been advised by the Chief Allied Health Officer that at this time, unless you are employed within an inpatient health service setting or residential aged care facility that you cancel all face to face appointments for the next 5 day period and reschedule to telehealth where possible.

Further information on these restrictions can be found in the Victorian Premier’s statement.

We understand this may be a hard time for our members and the wider community. Please refer to our Wellbeing & Support resource page if you need assistance.

DVA
In response to the five day lockdown across Victoria commencing midnight tonight, DVA has published a Provider News Article informing of services available to veterans and their families during the Coronavirus pandemic.

OTA will continue discussions with the DHHS and will provide necessary updates as they become available.

4 February, 2021
In response to a hotel quarantine worker testing positive, new state-wide restrictions came into effect in Victoria as of 11:59pm on 3 February 2021, and are as follows;

  • The limit on the number of people gathering in a household has been reduced from 30 to 15.
  • Face masks are again mandatory in all public indoor spaces, apart from when eating or drinking.
  • The 75 per cent ‘return to work’ cap in both public and private sectors scheduled for Monday 8 February has been paused and the current cap of 50% will remain in place.

At this time, there is no indication as to how long these new restrictions will be required.

For Allied Health and primary care providers, industry restrictions remain consistent with the industry guidance aligned to ‘COVIDSafe Summer restrictions’.

Requirements for physical distancing and density quotients for group interventions remain unchanged with the new state-wide restrictions. That is, physical distancing of 1.5m should be maintained wherever possible, applying the two square metre rule for group interventions, meetings, etc.

While the industry guidelines state that patients/clients do not need to wear a face mask unless the Allied Health practice is located in a shopping centre/retail setting, we would strongly encourage clinicians (in all private practice settings) to reinstate requirements for mask wearing by patients/clients in shared waiting rooms and other communal spaces (i.e. reception areas, bathrooms).

We hope this clarifies the current situation for you.

20 January, 2021
The Victorian Government stated face mask and PPE requirements for allied health practitioners in private practice settings from December 16 remains current and is not impacted by the easing of requirements for face coverings for the general public/community that came into effect as of Sunday 17 January 5pm.

6 January, 2021
Given the emerging status of active COVID-19 cases in the Victorian community, the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria has updated its advice for all Residential Aged Care (RAC) Facilities within Victoria.

Enhanced measures are now in place for the restriction of visitors and for the screening and testing of residents from nominated geographic areas and identified exposure sites.

This includes:

  • Enhanced screening and testing of RAC residents who have returned from, been admitted from or have visited Mentone, Mitcham or Hallam, or found to have visited listed exposure sites. These residents will be tested and managed as at risk COVID-19 until results known.
  • Enhanced attestations and testing of staff living in Mentone, Mitcham or Hallam.
  • Access to testing for those found to have visited exposure sites have.
  • Enhanced measures for limiting workforce mobility, and where practicable staff mobility within facilities.
  • All staff to wear surgical masks AND eye protection and all times.
  • Tier 3 PPE (including N95 masks) for symptomatic or suspected COVID-19 residents.

Additional visitor restrictions will now be in place for residential aged care facilities:

  • Access to one visitor at any time, once per day for a maximum of 2 hours.
  • Essential care persons: one visitor, no time limits apply
  • Essential behaviour assistance person: no time limits apply
  • Interpreters or informal language support: no time limits apply
  • Visitor is being assisted to handover care for discharge: maximum of 2 hours
  • Visitor is viewing facility as a potential site to live in: maximum of 2 hours
  • End of life: 2 visitors, no time limit.

Residential aged care services may be contacted by Melbourne Pathology (Sonic) offering free, onsite asymptomatic testing. We encourage you to access asymptomatic testing where available to help stop the spread.

It is anticipated geographic locations and exposure sites will be updated in coming days. Please monitor the DHHS coronavirus website for the latest information.

Download the DHHS - COVID-19 Factsheet here.

4 January, 2021
Given the NSW outbreak and new Victorian COVID-19 cases, please pay attention in your COVID screening to clients who have been in NSW or COVID-19 exposure sites and ensure these clients have complied with the Victorian Department of Health criteria or isolation guidelines before providing treatment.

This update is in response to the current NSW and VIC COVID-19 outbreak and is subject to change. While we will make every effort to keep you informed, we recommend you routinely check the Victorian Coronavirus website for further updates.

19 March, 2021
The West Australian State of Emergency and Public Health State of Emergency Declarations have been extended until 26 March 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel Restrictions apply in WA
Anyone who has arrived in WA from Queensland since 10 March and who visited any of the affected locations during the relevant times should get tested immediately for COVID-19 and quarantine.

Anyone who has arrived in WA from NSW since 13 March and who visited any of the affected areas during the relevant times should get tested immediately for COVID-19 and quarantine. Strict travel restrictions to remote aboriginal communities remain in place.   

Business Guidelines and Safety Plans
Businesses  required to close under the Emergency Management Act 2005 must complete a COVID Safety Plan  and display a COVID Safety Plan Certificate. Those not required to close may wish to voluntarily complete the COVID-19 Safety Plan and Guidelines. Information on contact registers for businesses and venues can be accessed here.

Support for Health Professionals
The West Australian Health Department have a website indicating COVID-19 information for health professionals.

OTA recommends you routinely check the WA Government COVID-19 website for updates.

12 February, 2021
OTA is pleased to advise that WA will be reverting to pre lockdown restrictions as of 12.01am Sunday 14 February.This primarily affects OTs within Perth Metropolitan, and Peel regions and means that:

  • masks will no longer be required to be worn either inside or outside,
  • there will be no travel restrictions in WA (except for remote Aboriginal communities)

Mandatory contact registration will continue, as was planned prior to the lockdown. Further details of these changes are available on the WA Government COVID-19 website.

5 February, 2021
We are pleased to hear that the harsh lockdown in WA will end as planned from 6pm, Friday 5 February. We understand the South West will return straight to pre-lockdown conditions, however Perth and Peel will continue to have some restrictions in place until 12.01am, Sunday 14 February. This allows the full 14-day incubation period to run its course. 

We have asked the Chief Allied Health Officer for further clarification on health services, and it appears you can return to work, as long as masks and capacity rules are followed. 

The post-lockdown transition period for Perth and Peel includes:

  • Wearing a mask when in public and while at work, unless exempt or for vigorous outdoor exercise
  • All businesses can reopen, except for the casino and nightclubs
  • 4 square metre capacity rule in place for businesses and venues, up to a maximum of 150
  • 20-person limit for private indoor and outdoor gatherings
  • Visits to aged care and disability care facilities restricted to compassionate grounds
  • Only essential travel permitted in and out of the Perth and Peel regions to other parts of WA.
  • Elective surgery at WA public hospitals will resume once the lockdown has ended, and people will be contacted directly to reschedule and rebook their appointments.

The full press release is available on the WA Government website. Further details are available on the WA Government website.

PPE 
Guidance on use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in non-inpatient health care settings, during the COVID-19 outbreak can be found here.

We hope this helps you with your planning.

2 February, 2021
We have received confirmation that while private practice OTs may only provide telehealth and other virtual care during the hard lockdown, they may travel to their workplace to provide these virtual services if they are unable to do so from home.

If you do need to go to your workplace to provide virtual services you must follow precautions outlined on the WA Government COVID-19 website. This includes wearing masks at all times, including your workplace and on public transport.

Only mental health OTs may provide face to face services, and this is only for responding to an emergency situation for potentially life-threatening situations where telehealth is not clinically appropriate.

We expect to receive further clarification on how these restrictions will relate to the disability sector if the lockdown is extended. We will update you as information becomes available.

If you are a DVA provider you may find it useful to review the DVA Provider News Article. This article provides information of services available to veterans and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also includes the fee schedule for telehealth services.

The situation is dynamic and rapidly changing, we recommend you to continue to go to the WA Government COVID-19 website for the most up to date and most accurate information.

1 February, 2021
We are aware that many of you are affected by the COVID-19 hard lockdown imposed yesterday for metropolitan Perth, Peel and South West. Specific details on how these restrictions will affect you as essential health care workers can be found in the Stay at Home and Closure (Perth, Peel and the South West Regions) Directions document on (pages 9 and 10) and are summarised below:

  • Private practice OTs may continue to provide care via telehealth and other virtual care options
  • OTs working in hospitals or in residential care facilities may provide critical clinical care (as directed by the hospital or facility)
  • Mental health OTs may provide emergency face-to-face care for potentially life-threatening situations where telehealth is not clinically appropriate

Please follow the specific infection prevention/PPE guidelines as stipulated by WA Health, and make use of our COVID-19 and telehealth resources. We recommend you put your COVID Safety Plan into action, check the WA Government COVID-19 website, and make the most of the infection prevention training that is available.

Click on the plus below for updates from 2020.

18 December 2020

The latest DHHS iteration of the PPE guidance for Allied Health and private practice is now available here. Amendments to the previous guidance provided is highlighted in yellow for your convenience.

16 December 2020

Victorian OTs - Industry Restart Guidelines: Allied Health and primary care services

Please be advised that the Industry Restart Guidelines: Allied Health and other primary care services (15 December 2020) have now been updated to reflect the COVID-safe Summer restrictions effective as of 11.59pm 6 December 2020;

Please note, that density quotients for indoor groups are now confirmed as;

  • 1 to 2 square metres for services in clinical settings
  • 1 to 4 square metres for services delivered in fitness industry settings (refer to p.2 of the document)

Businesses operating from a residential address and providing clinical services on site are subject to the following restrictions:

  • Must have a COVIDSafe Plan
  • Premises must be registered as a business premises
  • Must follow PPE guidance issued by DHHS

Please refer to the Industry restart Guidelines: Allied Health and Other Primary Health Services (Dec 2020) for further details.

15 December 2020

Victorian OTs
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has released an updated version of the COVID-19: A guide to the conventional use of PPE guidance. You can download the document here.

In view of this update, the DHHS will also be reviewing their Allied Health and private practice PPE guide and will forward a revised version as soon as possible.

14 December 2020

DHHS has provided updated information on student clinical placements in Victoria. The new guidance document is available here.

The changes are as follows:

  • If students are placed on a ward where a patient tests positive for COVID-19, they will need to be reallocated to another ward until there are no longer any active cases on the ward, and appropriate cleaning/disinfection of affected areas has been completed. Students should not care for patients who are suspected, probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any time.
  • Students should not be placed in high-risk hospital work premises (as defined by Workplace Additional Industry Obligations Directions).
  • Clinical placements can recommence in both public and private residential aged care facilities (RACFs) subject to specified requirements.

8 December 2020

Victorian Members: Transition to ‘COVID-safe summer’ restrictions for Allied Health and primary care practitioners in Victoria.

Public Health have confirmed that all Allied Health and primary care practitioners must continue to wear a Tier 1 mask (at minimum) when providing clinical services to patients. This includes all staff who work in ‘public facing’ roles within a clinical services should continue to wear a mask. In the context of private practice settings, this would include reception/administrative staff irrespective as to whether there are screens and other safety measures in place.

Mandatory indications for mask wearing for members of the general public are now limited to public transport, commercial passenger vehicles, ride share and indoor shopping/retail. In this context, patients do not need to wear masks when being treated by an Allied Health or primary care practitioner unless the practice is located within a shopping centre/retail setting. 

Further advice from Public Health is still pending regarding a potential change in density quotients, and we will provide updates as soon as this information is available.

7 December 2020

SA Members: There has been some clarification over the weekend around the use of masks in South Australia. OTA has provided two more FAQs below which may help members navigate through the COVID-19 changing environment.

Q Who needs to wear a mask for in home service provision?
A
Any person receiving individual care in their home is not required to wear a mask – this includes in a supported independent living situation, which is considered a home.  Note however that all Allied Health Providers are asked to wear masks in all service settings when they are in the presence of others.

Q Can a reusable cloth mask be used in health care settings?
A
Yes. Recent notice from SA Health indicates reusable cloth masks can be worn by clients, carers and families in health care settings where no invasive procedures are undertaken. Single-use surgical masks should be worn in some clinical environments in line with standard protocols.

4 December 2020

We have updated one of our Q and A's from yesterdays update. Here are the correct details:

Q Sole Practitioners
As all AHP services outside of hospitals are both essential services and Public Activities a COVID-Safe Plan is required.

3 December 2020

Fortunately, we have not received notice of increased numbers of COVID-19 cases in SA since our last update. However, there are a number of general public restrictions in place which affect all South Australians. In relation to Allied Health Practitioner (AHP) specific notices we have some highlights of information to share to assist our members and their OT peers with maintaining their safety and continuance of practice.

Q What is a Public Activity for the purposes of COVID-19 management?
OTs are considered essential workers and are listed as being part of the Public Activity list on recent SA Government Public Activity Requirements information sheets under the current extension of SA’s Major Emergency Declaration.

Q Mask wearing in AHP settings
AHP professionals must wear surgical grade disposable masks in line with the national standard of COVID-19 precautions. SA Health has provided information on the quality of masks and their use for all South Australians. In all settings AHPs must wear surgical grade disposable masks as public health service providers.

Q Sole Practitioners
As all AHP services outside of hospitals are both essential services and Public Activities a COVID-Safe Plan is required.

Q Contact tracking for Private Practice/Mobile service providers
A It is required that all AHPs use a contact tracking tool such as noted on the COVID Safe Check-In FAQ sheet or a physical log book.

Q Fitness Therapies
All premises where fitness therapies are conducted must also comply with the defined public activity guidance under a COVID Safe Plan. There are a number of useful posters to assist in the implementation of your COVID Safe Plan for these premises.

Q Driving Assessments
Many of these services related to specialist OT service provision have been cancelled with updates available on the Service SA website.

Q Aboriginal Community service provision
There are specific movement restrictions in place. There are resources to assist with protocol communications to support the minimisation of COVID-19 spreading.

1 December 2020

South Australian OTs
From Tuesday 1 December all allied health care settings in SA are required:

  • By 00:01 hours on Friday, 4 December to have a COVID Safe Plan, that includes contact tracing systems–such as the COVID Safe Check-In https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/business-and-work/covid-safe-check-in
  • All people in all allied health service settings must wear a single use surgical mask–which covers both their mouth and nose–when in the physical presence of other persons.
  • Exceptions to the mask wearing requirements are listed in the 1 December 2020 letter to SA Health Professionals from the Acting Chief Allied and Scientific Health Officer Dr Ingrid Lensink.
  • To follow the density requirements of 1 person per 4 square metres–however these to not include people employed at the practice.

More information on masks is available from sahealth.sa.gov.au/covidmasks

30 November 2020

South Australian COVID Safe Update
New directions have come through from SA Health via Adelaide phn GP Liaison , Dr Emily Kirkpatrick - Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, outlining the following covid requirements:

  • All allied health practices are currently required to have a COVID Safe Plan
  • All people (including patients, patient’s family members, healthcare staff, administrative staff, contractors and cleaning staff) are required to wear single use surgical masks when on healthcare sites. Cloth masks are not deemed sufficient for healthcare settings.
  • Exceptions to mask wearing can be accepted where clinical judgement identifies this as related directly to certain breathing difficulties, mental health conditions, communication with deaf or hard or hearing community members, people under the age of 12.
  • A health care setting includes, allied health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, GP practices, public and private hospitals and specialist practices, including drug and alcohol facilities.
  • Density requirements should be 1 person per 4 square metres. Density requirements do not include people employed at the practice.

More detailed information, including FAQs and a poster for facilities will be available later today.

22 November 2020

Victoria moves to the Last Step of the roadmap for reopening from 11:59 pm 22 November. 

Changes include:

  • There are no restrictions on reasons to leave home. During the Last Step restrictions on gatherings remain in place.
  • There will be a phased return to workplaces.
  • There are no longer any limits for visiting people in care facilities except for standard visiting rules set by the facility
  • There are no longer specific limits under the Victorian Chief Health Officer’s directions for visitors to hospitals. Rules may vary between hospitals.
  • Contact and non-contact sport and recreation can resume for all ages, with limits applying to numbers of people. 
  • Shops, recreational facilities, entertainment, hospitality and cultural venues will be open, although there are still restrictions. These include operating with a COVIDSafe Plan, density limits (the number of people allowed in a venue depends on its size so that people can keep at least 1.5 metres distance apart), record keeping and cleaning

Please visit https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/last-step-coronavirus-roadmap-reopening for full details. 

20 November 2020

We have been advised that, with South Australia’s COVID restrictions easing and the Stay at Home Direction being lifted from midnight Saturday, allied health providers can resume face-to-face services from Sunday 22 November. 

Providers are encouraged to have a voluntary COVID Safe plan in place, maintain social distancing and use appropriate infection control practices. Telehealth remains a preferred method of service delivery where possible.

We will continue to provide updates and links to official guidance as it is released.

* Our previous update incorrectly state that providers MUST have a COVID Safe plan, this information was updated on 23/11 after clarification from the CAHO that providers are encouraged to have a voluntary COVID Safe plan but these are not mandatory.*

19 November 2020

Update for SA members working in Aged Care
We have been advised that by the SA CAHO confirm that OTs who are working in residential aged care facilities (RACF) are still permitted to go to these locations to provide urgent services which cannot be provided via telehealth and other virtual care options during the lockdown.
You must wear appropriate PPE, in accordance with the Australian Guidelines, and you need to let each facility know if you are visiting other facilities, this may be registered with the RACF.

Update for SA members working in Mental Health
Mental health services may be provided in hospital emergency, at inpatient psychiatric services, by allied health professionals providing mental health services in hospital, private psychiatric practices or by allied health professionals in community settings with a preference of telehealth but face-to-face is permitted in the instance of emergency clinical care in life-threatening situations.

Update for SA members working in NDIS
Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Hon Stuart Robert MP, has confirmed NDIS participants in South Australia have access to a range of temporary measures to ensure they can receive their disability-related supports, in line with public health advice including:

  • Capped funding towards Assistive technology devises
  • Plan flexibility to ensure access to support services
  • Funds from NIDA towards PPE for client contact in relation to Activities of Daily Life

The full media release can be found on the NDIS website

18 November 2020

The SA Chief Public Health Officer has advised for all of the SA community to stay home unless for an emergency, groceries, or urgent medical care.

We have been provided with the following advice as of 5:00pm 18 November, please note advice may be subject to change based on any future announcements from the Chief Public Health Officer and we will continue to provide updates to members as they come to hand. 

Activities exempt from the six-day order include:

1. Allied health professionals working as essential workers in hospitals providing critical clinical care or as directed by the hospital
2. Allied health professionals working in private practice providing care through telehealth and other virtual care options
3. Allied health professionals providing mental health services, being provided in hospital or telehealth
4. Students, medical/nursing/midwifery/allied health on placement providing essential care in hospitals or through telehealth

Activities not exempt from the six-day order:
1. Any other allied health professionals other than above
2. Any students other than the above

Members are encouraged to review the telehealth resources. OTA understand that this is a time of concern for our members prioritising our mental wellbeing is an important part of staying healthy—for ourselves and for our clients.OTA has a number of wellbeing resources available for you on our website.

We will continue to provide updates as any new information is released.

17 November 2020

South Australian OTs
The following information has been provided for South Australian occupational therapists as of 1:00pm, 17 November 2020:

  • There is currently no specific restriction on allied health clinics, and they are excluded from the Direction on public activities, as have medical or health services.

However, the following advice has been provided;

  • You are advised to consider delaying non-essential direct clinical care over the next two weeks unless its required to prevent significant deterioration and/or improve function (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).
  • Telehealth service should be used where possible if they are not deemed to negatively impact on mental health, or be a high risk to individuals as a direct consequence of services withdrawal of face to face and where space or technology prohibit moving online.
  • Allied Health Professionals are asked to practice good clinical judgment in relation to risk management for the screening of appointment attendance and reduce movement as much as possible.
  • It is essential that clinics can identify anyone who attended for future tracking, if needed.
  • All Allied Health Professionals are encouraged to review their Covid-19 safety planning procedures – including their line of command updates as needed.
  • AHPs are asked to actively share with the community what announcements are coming out from SA Health including those of which locations fall under various restrictions of travel.

Masks & PPE

  • Masks are not mandatory in general community practices but agencies can ask for them to be worn – practices need to follow local venue rules as a matter of course (please note that OTA is not a distributor of any PPE).
  • Masks are required within all aged care settings.
  • Where direct clinical care is essential you are advised to conduct a risk assessment and follow the SA Health  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and infection Control Guide

Aged Care

  • Allied Health Professionals have not been added to 2 visitors per day restrictions at this time.
  • Allied health who may do casual appointments in aged care are not restricted to one site; however, there is the expectation they will ensure any facility they enter is aware in advance of their entering other facilities, which facilities and when. It is important that maintain details of where and when they were at facilities to assist in tracking if needed.

Driving Assessments

  • Driving assessments should be postponed where possible with those that do occur to be based on wearing masks, 1.5 m spacing at all times, fresh air circulation (not recycled air-conditioners) and high-level infection control procedures as outlined above.

Group Therapy 

  • Group therapy in Allied Health Professional clinics do not come under gym / fitness centre closure restrictions but should follow the same precautions if continuing services.

Gyms

  • Allied Health Professionals who would usually operate within gyms will need to move elsewhere and incorporate consideration of the risk associated with extra exertion and breathing.

 

16 November 2020

DHHS COVID-19 Update: Student Clinical Placements
The following guidance has been updated to reflect the Third Step restrictions in place across Victoria from 11:59 pm on Sunday 8 November 2020, with the main changes to the guidance as follows:

  • Students should not be involved in the provision of direct patient care to patients with coronavirus (COVID-19), or probable and suspected coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Students on work placement are no longer required to be issued with a Permitted Worker Permit by their employer or higher education provider to attend the healthcare facility or move between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.
  • Public Sector Residential Aged Care (PSRAC) facilities that have been approved by the Department of Health and Human Services – DHHS can recommence student clinical placements (subject to additional guidance from DHHS). Placements in aged care settings should be prioritised to enable graduation from a course or to avoid critical workforce shortages in aged care. Non-PSRACs are subject to further consideration.
  • Movement between sites during a clinical placement at a health service should be kept to a minimum wherever possible.
  • Students are required to participate in daily staff attestations and temperature checks in place within health services.

For more information please download the document here.

30 October 2020

Revised Industry Restart Guidelines
DHHS is pleased to advise that an updated version of the Industry Restart Guidelines is now available on the DHHS website – reflecting requirements for Third Step restrictions. More information can be found here: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-sector-guidance-health-care-and-social-assistance

Indoor Therapy Groups
DHHS has informed us that they received formal confirmation from Public Health that indoor therapy groups (in both clinical settings and fitness industry settings) will be allowed to recommence in metro Melbourne from 11.59pm on Sunday 8 November 2020.

For clinical settings, indoor groups (when permitted) will need to operate with a density quotient of 1 person per 4 square metres, maximum number of 10 people per group – practitioners excluded from the group numbers. For health professionals, that provide clinical services in a fitness industry setting (ie. public/commercial gym) a density quotient of 1 person per 8 square metres will apply with a maximum group size of 10 people – practitioners again excluded from the group numbers.

Operating from a Residential Address
Additional information has been received with regard to requirements for Allied Health and other healthcare services operating from a residential address. To operate a ‘business from the home’, the owner/practitioner of the business must ensure their compliance with Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions as follows;

  • The residential premise must be registered as a business premise and have a COVID-safe plan in place
  • A separate entry/exit point must be available for patients/clients to access the premise
  • Patients/clients cannot access any shared facilities in the owner/practitioner’s place of residence – including bathrooms/toilets and foyer areas
  • Density quotients, physical distancing and PPE requirements remain applicable
  • Patients/clients must wear a face covering for the duration of the intervention/treatment – the only exception being where a patient/client is legally exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering as per DHHS directives; https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/face-masks-vic-covid-19#exceptions-for-not-wearing-a-face-mask

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.

PPE Update
The Department of Health has also updated their PPE for Allied Health Private Practice Settings. Please download the latest information here.

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.

4m2 Rule
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.

Victorian OTs
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

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. 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

Latest Newslettter from Safer Care Victoria
Information has been released from the PPE Taskforce regarding 'BYD N95 Respirators', more information here.

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

JobKeeper Update
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.

Stay safe.

Kind regards,
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.

COVID-safe Plan Example

COVID-safe Plan Template

3 August, 2020

Victoria: Restrictions
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 RSEAMed 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:

Aged Care

  • 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.

Telehealth

  • 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 info@otaus.com.au 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:

You can find OTA covid-19 resources here including FAQs

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

New Telehealth Codes
HICAPS has now enabled telehealth services for occupational therapy and other allied health modalities. For more information and the item number guide here.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions Updated
We have updated our COVID-19 FAQ resource, which offers support on telehealth, insurance, infection control and more. Browse the growing list of FAQs here.

6 April, 2020

Latest MBS Telehealth Update re: Bulk Billing

  • 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

29 March, 2020

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 advance.payment1@ndis.gov.au. 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:

  • Communication
  • Situation as at 25 March 2020
  • Disease characteristics
  • Current approach to response
  • Reducing exposure in health care settings
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Telehealth
  • 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

New Resource
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.

Advocacy Lobbying
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.

 

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