COVID-19: Impacts on speech pathologists

Speech Pathology Australia is endeavouring to keep its members informed about the impact of COVID-19 and its impact on the Association and the services and information it provides to its members. This page will be regularly updated. On this page, members will find information on the following topics:

Updated advice on requirements for workers in health care settings who are exposed to COVID-19 This is an animated Gif that flashes the word new in red out of a yellow background.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), with advice from the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) and the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG), has endorsed a Worker Permissions and Restrictions Framework for Workers in Health Care Settings.

The framework outlines nationally agreed recommendations that will support safe decision making when determining appropriate workplace restrictions and permissions for a worker exposed to COVID-19.

Previous requirements to furlough workers in health care settings following exposure to COVID-19 could result in significant impacts on health system capacity and place a significant strain on the delivery of health services. As Australia moves into Phase B and C of the National Plan to Transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response, the workforce impacts resulting from the previous guidance would be exacerbated. It is timely to update this guidance as increasing rates of workers in health care settings are now fully vaccinated.

The framework recognises that workers in health care settings who are vaccinated for COVID-19 are less likely to acquire infection and, if infected, are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others. The framework has been designed to reflect this changed risk profile.

The framework will support health care settings to undertake timely risk assessments and apply appropriate mitigation measures to optimise workforce capacity and thereby ensure the continued safe delivery of health care. It also ensures healthcare staff are able to safely work when required, to ensure ongoing access to health care services.

The framework includes workers in public and private health settings, private provider facilities – and education settings in which students are managed to undertake placement, registration and internships in clinical settings.

The framework acknowledges that decision making should be informed by the local epidemiological and public health situation, and that states and territories may implement additional requirements above these minimum national recommendations. This framework is publicly available in the CDNA COVID-19 Series of National Guidelines for Public Health Units (SoNG) and replaces previous advice. For more information please visit the Department of Health’s CDNA National guidelines for public health units.

Roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine in Australia for speech pathologists

Under 'Australia's Epidemiology and COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap', priority will be given to frontline (hospital) healthcare workers, residential aged care and disability care workers, and anyone working in quarantine facilities (Phase 1a). Speech pathologists working in these settings are likely to be included in Phase 1a. Allied health professionals working in primary care and community-based services will be vaccinated as part of Phase 1b (‘other healthcare workers’) or Phase 2a (‘other critical and high risk workers’) of the rollout. The vaccine roadmap is available from the Department of Health website. The Association will pass on any further information as it becomes available.

Update for the greater Brisbane area after 6 pm 11 January 2021

Masks must (at this stage) continue to be worn inside until 22 January 2021, and the 4m2 rule remains in place. If a person leaves the greater Brisbane area these rules still apply to that individual. Read the table below for more information about what PPE is required and when. Please brush up on appropriate donning and doffing PPE.

A person can remove their mask temporarily if it is necessary for communication e.g. working with someone who is hard of hearing, deaf, or relies on facial expressions and lip reading to communicate. If telepractice can be used this is preferred. Members considering providing face-to-face services should use the SPA Risk Assessment Tool to identify and mitigate any risks.

View table of recommended PPE escalation according to risk of COVID infections in community health services This graphic is associated with the hyperlink that precedes it and indicates the document is in PDF.

NSW Health services have moved from amber to green alert

On Wednesday 18 November, NSW Health services moved from amber to green alert in line with the COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Response Framework.

This decision follows discussion at the Risk Escalation Review Panel, which includes representatives from the Ministry of Health, Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) and the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC). The Panel's recommendation has been actioned in consultation with the Chief Health Officer.

A significant factor in changing alert levels has been no locally acquired COVID-19 cases in NSW in the past two weeks, and that recent cases in neighbouring states remain low, despite a resurgence of locally acquired cases in South Australia.

Current risk levels in NSW are monitored on the COVID-19 Risk Monitoring Dashboard.

An important aspect related to the risk level moving to green, is the corresponding use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

With the transition to a green alert, most staff do not need to wear a surgical mask when within 1.5 metres of a patient.

Mask wearing is still required for staff working in emergency departments and for all staff when attending to patients who have an acute respiratory infection.

Patients presenting to the emergency department should continue to be encouraged to wear masks. Most other patients are not required to wear masks. The use of PPE for any suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, remains unchanged.

A full matrix of infection prevention and control practices under each alert level is available with the Framework together with posters to support communication with staff and patients.

The fundamental principles of infection prevention and control, including maintaining physical distancing, regular hand hygiene and cough etiquette, must continue to be applied across all settings.