NSW and COVID-19

NSW Government are advertising for allied health providers

NSW Government are advertising for allied health providers, including speech pathologists, to support roll out of COVID-19 vaccination program. Current roles include:

NSW Worker Screenings and Testing – 30 July 2021

The screening advice for residential aged and disability care facilities, and home care service providers has been updated as at 28 July 2021 on the following web pages:

The key messages for this update are:

  • For residential aged care facilities the requirement for COVID-19 testing every 72 hours is required for staff living in the City of Fairfield (Fairfield LGA), Canterbury-Bankstown LGA and from 31 July 2021 the Cumberland City (Cumberland LGA).
  • From 31st July 2021 COVID-19 testing will be required every 72 hours for residential disability care facility and home care service provider staff living in Cumberland City (Cumberland LGA).
  • Residential aged care, residential disability care facilities and home care service providers should consider COVID-19 testing every 3 days for staff in Greater Sydney who have a medical exemption for wearing a surgical mask.
  • Disability Day programs located in the Greater Sydney region are advised to cease all activities in group settings from 27 July 2021 until 10 August 2021 unless non-attendance at a day program would result in a risk of harm to the person with disability or others.

Financial support for businesses impacted by COVID-19 in NSW

Information and how to apply for grants, loans, and financial assistance for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 in NSW is now available.

Canterbury-Bankstown aged care and health worker COVID-19 testing

From the 23 July, people living in or are staying in the Canterbury-Bankstown local government area but work outside this area, must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to go to work as an aged care or health worker.

People can go to a COVID-19 testing clinic near their home or work.

An aged care worker is a person who works in a residential aged care facility. A health care worker is a person who:

  • provides health services within the meaning of the Health Services Act 1997 (whether public or private sector)
  • is a registered health practitioner
  • works for a registered health practitioner or
  • provides ancillary services to a health practitioner, such as cleaners, cooks and security providers at hospitals.

Further information available online.

Update NSW members 20 July 2021

Members living in the three NSW LGAs: Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown: The Public Health Order permits only essential workers to leave these LGAs for work. The Association has confirmed that self-regulated health practitioners, including speech pathologists, working in both the private and public sectors are considered to be essential workers under this Public Health Order.

Non-clinical staff who work in a health clinic are also considered essential. Further information about authorised workers online.

COVID – 19 Testing requirements

The following advice has been received from the South-West Sydney Local Health District regarding their recommendations for health services in the affected LGAs.

  • LGAs now impacted include Fairfield (as previously announced) along with Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown.
  • For staff living in Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown LGAs and working outside their own LGA, compliance commences from Wednesday 21 July. This allows staff to get tested over the next 72 hours.
  • Testing can occur at any testing location.
  • Managers should ensure that they have a system in place where compliance is being monitored.
  • Staff in the identified LGAs who are working from home do not need to be tested, it is only if they move out of their LGA for work.
  • Staff who work and live in the same LGA do not need to be tested.

It is expected the NSW Health website will be updated to reflect this information.

PPE

View Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) guidelines noting where health condition allows, all patients should also wear a mask [dependent on other exemptions such as age] where this isn’t possible, clinician should use a shield as well as a mask. NSW mask rules are available online.

Working from home

NSW Health have indicated “all employees must allow an employee to work from home if the employee is reasonably able to do so”. More detail available online

NSW lockdown update – request from Chief Health Officer

The Chief Health Officer (CHO) has made the following requests of allied health professionals. Members are requested to familiarise themselves with CHO's letters contents

Read the letter from Chief Health OfficerThis graphic is associated with the hyperlink that precedes it and indicates the document is in PDF.

Public Health orders relating to COVID-19 tests for Greater Sydney workers - 15 July

From 12:01 am on Wednesday 14 July 2021 members may need to get a COVID-19 test if they are leaving your home to go to work. Further detail available online.

Masks

Speech pathologists should be wearing mask as well as their patients and adhering to the requirements outlined by the NSW Government. Updates are available online.

In person services

The NSW Chief Allied Health Officer has indicated that “all health practitioners encourage their patients to stay at home and where possible avoid face to face services and contact.” In person services are appropriate “only if not providing the service is likely to result in a deterioration in someone’s health and it cannot be delayed or provided via telehealth should a face to face service be provided as a last resort. Practitioners should also be particularly vigilant and limited face to face contact in areas where there is high community transmission such as in parts of south west Sydney.

Face to face group classes and group therapies should also be suspended until the lockdown orders are eased.”

Update for NSW members – 13 July

The Association is aware that concerns are being raised from members about allied health practices operating “as usual” after the announcement of the NSW “stay at home” orders.

Andrew Davidson, Chief Allied Health Officer, NSW has shared with AHPA today that while specific restrictions have not been placed on allied health businesses, the expectation is that health professionals will support the letter and spirit of the restrictions by doing everything in their power to restrict movement of people and unnecessary contact.

Current guidance is that if the care cannot be delayed, then it should be able to proceed. Where care can be delayed or be delivered via telehealth this should occur.

The Chief Allied Health office has said that wherever possible telehealth should be used or treatment delayed unless absolutely necessary.

In many practices it is therefore unlikely that all allied health services can be delivered in person.

The Association recommends that members use the Speech Pathology Australia Risk Assessment Tool to support decision making around delivering in person services.

There are also an array of resources on the SPA website to support delivery of services via telepractice.

If you have concerns about the work you are being asked to carry out at this time, you can contact WorkPlacePLUS or Fairwork for advice about your workplace.

Access to PPE

Minister Hunt has announced that the Commonwealth will be providing supports for PPE to allied health practitioners.

Surgical masks, N95 masks, gloves, gowns and goggles will be delivered to the seven primary Health networks across Sydney.

NSW ”stay-at-home” orders and their impact on allied health professionals and their patients

The stay at home order was extended on 26 June 2021 to all of Greater Sydney, extending across Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong, and Shellharbour. Additionally masks are mandatory in all indoor areas that are not your home for all of NSW. There are explanations of exemptions regarding mask wearing in the face mask rules.

NSW ”stay-at-home” orders and their impact on allied health professionals and their patients - clarification for allied health from the Chief Allied Health Officer.

The following information should be considered general practical measures for clinicians based on advice received and understanding of the Public Health Order (PHO).

It is important for all health practitioners to support the aims of the PHO which is to limit face to face contact in the suburbs where there is community transmission. This will reduce the risk of further transmission and also people (patients and clinicians) unknowingly becoming close contacts of someone with COVID-19, which would further restrict their practice and require additional self-isolation.

With regards to allied health services, the understanding is that if the care cannot be delayed, then it should be able to proceed. Where care can be delayed or be delivered via telehealth this should occur. Circumstances of where care should not be delayed is where it would result in the deterioration of the person’s health.

Other considerations:

If a service is provided, the 4m rule should apply to waiting rooms and clinicians and patients should wear masks as per the PHO. (Note: NSW Health remains on amber alert which requires all NSW Health staff to wear masks).

Response to specific questions:

  • Small group classes – advice is to avoid these during the stay-at-home period and provide 1:1 care if it cannot be delayed.
  • What is meant by working on a ‘regular basis’ eg: does a clinician need to stay at home if they have provided home visits in the affected suburbs in the past 14 days but practises outside the area – this would depend on whether it was 1 or 2 visits/clients or if most of their clients are in the affected areas. (More information will be provided as it becomes available)
  • Guidance for gyms is already provided in the PHO and wouldn’t be permitted in the affected LGAs as part of the stay-at-home order. If a gym is part of an allied health clinic, advice is to delay providing the service. If the service cannot be delayed (as above), group classes should be avoided, but if proceeding, the 4m rule should, apply as well as masks.

There is also further advice on the NSW Health website for RACFs, residential disability providers and home care service providers which some allied health clinicians may fine useful.

NSW Government directive relating to COVID-19 - 23 June

The NSW Government’s directive relating to COVID-19, including information about wearing face masks is available. Read more…

NSW COVID-19 update - 6 May

The NSW Chief Allied Health Officer has advised that the most recent COVID-19 order has no direct impact on allied health services at this stage.

Summary as follows:

  • The Health Ministry is waiting for more information about the new public health order.
  • At this stage there is no impact on health and medical services, other than the need to wear masks in public venues which wouldn’t include private practice clinics.
  • There are restrictions on the number of visitors to a home (max 20) and while there are no specific details, it is anticipated that would apply to home businesses.
  • There are no changes to the social distancing rules at this stage.

COVID-19 Update – 1 April 

Easing of Restrictions for New South Wales

Temporary restrictions in the Byron, Tweed, Ballina and Lismore areas have been lifted. All of NSW now has one set of COVID-19 rules 
The following will apply (full list available here):

Members should keep a close watch on the Risk Monitoring Dashboard. As of the 1 April, the overall status is in the GREEN risk category.
Read more about:

It is recommended members find out the current arrangements in place for any facility before visiting these locations.  

Businesses owners must have a COVID-19 Safe plan and continue to keep accurate records of all attendances, including through QR Codes, to enable fast contact tracing in the event of any community transmission. 

Further  information is available here: COVID-19 (coronavirus) | NSW Government 

NSW Risk Monitoring Dashboard status updated to green

The Risk Monitoring Dashboard provides an assessment of transmission risk in healthcare settings. As of 24 February 2021 the overall status is green.

For advice on PPE, social distancing and allied health practice during risk levels download the COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Response and Escalation Framework.

Face mask wearing in NSW (21 January 2021)

Information regarding face masks has changed over the past months. Outlined below is the most recent information to hand and is to be used as a guide for members to make decisions in their practice.

For the most up to date NSW information look at NSW Health website.

On the NSW Health COVID-19 page isupdated advice for health professionals as of 22 December 2020, members should note:

  • NSW Health staff must follow the advice of local infection control staff and the Clinical Excellence Commission guidance in the Response and Escalation Framework.
  • When there is active community transmission, general practitioners and other primary health care professionals should wear a mask for all clinical encounters.
  • The NSW Government has distributed masks to health workers to meet current demand and is monitoring the supply of masks across the state.

Members should keep a close watch on the Risk Monitoring Dashboard. As of the 21 January, the overall status is in the AMBER risk category.

For advice on PPE, social distancing and allied health practice during risk levels please see the COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Response and Escalation Framework. (NB. On page 3 of this document is an outlineo the Risk matrix Model.

Face masks are mandatory in certain premises in Greater Sydney:

  • Effective 3 January 2021 – In Greater Sydney (including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains) face masks are mandatory in specified indoor settings. For more information see the NSW Government Face Masks page.

A person may remove their mask if they are:

  • eating or drinking; or
  • communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing; or
  • at work and the nature of the work makes the wearing of fitted face covering a risk to the person's, or another persons' health and safety, or means clear enunciation or visibility of your mouth is essential; or
  • asked to remove their mask for identity purposes.

All of this should be considered as part of a member’s Risk Assessment.

For more details view NSW Government: who needs to wear a mask.