Important Stage 4 COVID-19 Update: Latest Advice from DHHS + Workplace Travel + COVID Safe Plans

What stage 4 restrictions mean to you

We are aware that you may have a number of questions in relation to how the stage 4 COVID restrictions in Victoria apply to your practice. These restrictions are legislative directives from the Department of Health and they take immediate effect. The intent of these directives are to protect you and the public by restricting non-essential movement across the state. There are no restrictions to the delivery of telehealth services. The main restrictions apply to the delivery of direct client services (see below) and travel in the community.

Permitted Work:

  • You do not require a medical referral to provide care.
  • There are  no restrictions on the delivery of Allied Health services via Telehealth. 
  • If you provide a critical Allied Health services within the context of an ‘approved workplace’, such as a public or private hospital, you can continue to deliver this service/s without issue
  • If you operate as a private practitioner or within an Allied Health private practice setting, you (or your employer) will need to ensure that your patients/clients fit within the prescribed inclusion criteria for an ‘essential’ service’  

‘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).'

  • Routine services are not permitted.
  • All workplaces are required to have a COVID Safe Plan.

Provision of Essential Services within a Patient/Client’s Home Environment:

  • Direct client care must only be provided in a client’s home environment if the absence of, or delay of this care, would result in a significant change/deterioration in the patient/client’s functional independence necessitating escalation of care (e.g. avoiding a hospital admission or emergency department presentation)’. 
  • Provision of ‘essential’ Allied Health services within a patient’s home environment should be interpreted as the equivalent of entering a clinical area and appropriate infection control/PPE guidance adhered to.
  • If completing more than one home visit within a single day, this is in effect a change of workplace and a full change of PPE should be instituted – including reassessment of the potential risk and required PPE tier for each individual patient/client.
  • Routine services are not permitted.

Essential movement:

  • If you are a private practitioner, you may travel to your workplace to provide telehealth services providing you have a permit to do so and you and follow appropriate COVID Safe Plan.
  • Community travel should be restricted to within a radius of 5km where possible. 
  • You may travel beyond 5km to provide an essential service to an existing client if this is absolutely necessary. 
  • New clients should only be taken on for essential services if they are located within 5km radius of your primary location (unless they require specialist intervention that cannot be provided by a more local clinician)
  • Clients can leave their homes to receive health care or attend medical appointments – this guidance does not specify a geographical limit;
  • Health Service employees are required to wear their hospital lanyard with photo identification if they must travel in the community. Other supporting evidence is recommended (AHPRA registration, OTA membership).
  • Private practitioners are required to carry a permitted worker permit if they must travel in the community.  Other supporting evidence is recommended (AHPRA registration, OTA membership).
  • Travel for routine services is not permitted
  • Further clarification is being sought on border crossing restrictions.

These stage 4 restrictions are aligned to Victoria’s current State of Disaster, and are understandably focused on saving and protecting the lives of all Victorian’s through restricting non-essential movement across the stateWe ask that you do your bit by using good and appropriate judgement to critically consider what direct client contact is absolutely essential.

PPE Guidelines

The PPE Taskforce updated its advice for all healthcare workers in Victoria. The department mandates that all healthcare workers must utilise a disposable, Tier/Level 1 surgical mask and eye protection when directly treating patients. For allied health professionals, the only lawful exception for not wearing a mask is for those professions where clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth is required, such as speech pathology and audiology.
Private Practice Victorian Members: Please see new departmental PPE guidance specific to Allied Health in private practice settings here.

Permitted Worker Scheme

Employers that require their staff to attend a worksite must now issue a worker permit to their employees (this is the employer’s responsibility). For more information visit the Permitted Worker Scheme website, and to download the template, click 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.

Childcare Access Forms

‘From Thursday 6 August, only the children of permitted workers and vulnerable kids will be able to access childcare and kinder.’ Learn more and access the Permitted Worker Scheme Template (Childcare Addition).

COVID Safe Plans

Under the Stage 4 restrictions, it is mandatory for every workplace permitted to operate in Victoria to have a COVID Safe Plan in place by 11:59pm on Friday 7 August.

What is a COVID Safe Plan?

  • Every workplace must have a COVID Safe Plan to help protect its staff, customers and visitors and to prepare for a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace.
  • Your COVID Safe Plan must set out:
    • Your actions to help prevent the introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace
    • The level of face-covering or personal protective equipment (PPE) required for your workforce
    • How you will prepare for, and respond to, a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace

When does my COVID Safe Plan need to be in place by?
Your COVID Safe Plan in must be place by 11:59pm on Friday 7 August

What do I need to do to keep my workplace safe?
Workplaces that remain open must:

  • have a COVID Safe Plan in place that is regularly updated (unless you are a small business with fewer than 5 employees)
  • ensure that any workers that can work from home are able to do so
  • collect records of all workers, subcontractors, customers and clients attending the work premises for 15 minutes or longer (certain exemptions will apply)
  • one worker per four square metres of enclosed workspace or in shared areas
  • unless an exemption applies, ensure that workers do not work across multiple sites, or for multiple employers
  • ensure that workers are in good health - workers cannot work if they are unwell and employers must not require workers with symptoms to work
  • if your worker is unwell, send them home and direct them to be tested. They must stay home until they have their result
  • report any positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) to DHHS, Worksafe, Health and Safety Representatives, and notify your workforce
  • regularly clean your facilities, shared spaces and provide additional cleaning supplies
  • undertake risk assessments for cleaning and the potential closure of your workplace

How do I go about developing a COVID Safe Plan?

  • The COVID Safe Plan template, guidance on how to prepare your COVID Safe Plan, and additional employer obligations for workplaces that remain open under the Stage 4 restrictions can be found at Business Victoria  
  • While you do not have to use the template provided, it is your responsibility to ensure that your COVID Safe Plan addresses all the guidance and requirements outlined in the COVID Safe Plan template as a minimum.
  • You do not have to lodge your COVID Safe Plan with the Government. However, you may be required to provide the COVID Safe Plan to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or WorkSafe upon request or in the event of a confirmed positive case at your workplace.

Where can I get more information?

  • The Business Victoria website hotline provides information on restrictions and support to help your workplace plan and respond to coronavirus (COVID-19).  You may find it useful to read their COVID safe FAQs or call them on 13 22 15 if you have any additional questions.

Telehealth Guidelines

Safer Care Victoria & the DHHS have developed guidance on how to use telehealth for allied health services, including considerations for best practice application & practical examples of using telehealth for allied health. Download the guidance here.

Business Support

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.

Support & Resources

Prioritising our mental wellbeing is an important part of staying healthy—for ourselves and for our clients. Feel free to browse the selection of (personal and professional) resources below:

As OTA continues to meet with DHHS we will bring you regular announcements. Please continue to view our COVID-19 latest updates webpage and social media channels for updates.

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