COVID-19 update for registered optometrists and related businesses in Victoria: Stage 4 restrictions and permitted work arrangements

12 Aug 2020

The Optometry Board of Australia (the Board) wishes to provide further information on permitted work arrangements in Victoria as confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for allied health professionals including optometrists.

The Board takes these directives from DHHS seriously and expects optometrists and businesses to comply with them.

The current Stage 4 ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions are focused on saving and protecting the lives of all Victorians through restricting non-essential movement across the state and are aligned to Victoria’s current State of Disaster.

Under the ‘Permitted Work Premises for the purposes of the Restricted Activity Directions (Restricted Areas)’, if you provide a critical allied health service within the context of an ‘approved workplace’, you can continue to deliver this service/s.

Unless an exception applies, only Permitted Work Premises may operate with on-site operations during the restricted activity period in the Restricted Area, and only to the extent permitted.

Urgent care: what are essential services?

While the restrictions note that Ahpra-registered practitioners can continue to operate, they state that:

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).

Practitioners must critically assess whether the service is essential for the patient/client during the six-week Stage 4 restriction period.

If operating as a private practitioner or within a private practice setting, practitioners or their employers will need to ensure that their patients/clients fit within the prescribed inclusion criteria for an essential service:

www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/business-industry-stage-4-restrictions-covid-19.  

Practitioners should continue to monitor the DHHS website, and in particular the link above, for updates.

DHHS directives state routine services are not permitted.

Care must only be provided 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 – as described above. These directives are about protecting the public and protecting health workers. practitioners must critically consider if the service is essential for the patient/client over the six-week Stage 4 restriction period. This is about saving lives.

Please note that you do not require a medical referral to provide care.

There are no restrictions on the delivery of allied health services via Telehealth. DHHS has encouraged private practitioners to consider using Telehealth where at all possible so that patients/clients can continue to benefit from their allied health services.

Requirement for completion of COVID Safe Plan by 11.59pm on 7 August 2020

Key points for optometry practice employers to note:

  • There are new requirements for businesses and employers.
  • Certain services and industries will be able to remain operational and will be required by law to have a COVID Safe Plan that is regularly updated.
  • Every employer must have completed their COVID Safe Plan by 11.59pm on 7 August 2020. This includes employers within the healthcare and social assistance sectors.
  • If your organisation has an existing formalised coronavirus pandemic plan, it is your responsibility to ensure that it addresses all the guidance and requirements outlined in the COVID Safe Plan template as a minimum.
  • While organisations are required to have a COVID Safe Plan, it is not a requirement to use the COVID Safe Plan template.
  • Organisations do not have to lodge their COVID Safe Plan with the Victorian 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.
  • 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 on the Victorian Government COVID Safe Plan (for employers) webpage.
  • These requirements apply to all Victorian services that are permitted to remain operational (including those in rural areas currently subject to Stage 3 restrictions). For more information visit: www.djpr.vic.gov.au.

More information for practitioners

Some useful resources to help you manage COVID-19 include:

Your professional association can provide further guidance about how to comply with the latest directions.

Ian Bluntish

Chair, Optometry Board of Australia

 
 
Page reviewed 12/08/2020