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:

TAC introduces telehealth item codes for speech pathologists

Speech Pathology Australia provided a submission to TAC last week to support the introduction of item codes for speech pathology services delivered via telehealth.

TAC has now confirmed introduction of these new codes. Below is a summary of details provided by TAC:
  • The new telehealth item codes will align to the current speech pathology TAC face-to-face rate.
  • A phased approach will allow all eligible providers to invoice the TAC for telehealth services by the end of April.
  • TAC have indicated that providers can deliver telehealth services to TAC clients and will be paid current TAC face to face rates and telehealth invoices can be backdated to 13 March 2020.
  • Providers must ensure the need for telehealth is clinically justified, outcome focussed and related to a client’s transport accident In line with the TAC's Clinical Framework.
  • TAC fee schedules will be updated when new telehealth item codes are available.

Members should regularly check the Information for TAC providers page for the latest updates.

Professional Education Events Update

In response to COVID-19 restrictions all face-to-face workshops have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, with the Association’s Professional Education team working to ensure continuity of member learning through interactive, live-streamed delivery. This new format has been named LIVE Online.

Members who previously registered for an Association’s workshop will be contacted by their Branch Coordinator with details of the new LIVE Online event. Participants will have the choice of moving to LIVE Online (with a discount) or a full refund. Once registered participants have moved into their online groups, remaining places will be opened nationally. Members will be able to access programs, irrespective of the state in which they live, resulting in more events accessible to more people.

Telepractice webisodes

Members should visit the Professional Education’s new Learning to Use Telepractice page with webinars on family-centred services, paediatric and adult dysphagia, risk management, IT considerations and complex disability services. Queensland Health have also shared with the Association their eLearning Programs on Telepractice for the Delivery of Paediatric Feeding Services and Conducting Clinical Swallowing Examinations via Telepractice. Learn more about the Queensland Health eLearning Programs.

Learning Hub arrives soon!

The Association is very close to launching its new Learning platform! Members be able to register for events, access recorded workshops, the Speak Up podcast, and webisodes. Keep an eye out on the Association’s website, Instagram and Facebook for launch details.

Will I be able to earn enough PSR points in 2020?

There are many opportunities to earn PSR points with online study resources as well as self-directed study. With the development of even more webinars, Speak Up podcasts, webisodes and online courses are underway.

While all of this is occurring, members should keep a look out for regular updates. Again, the health and safety of members and staff will be paramount in these decisions.

COVID-19 resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and remote communities

The Australian Department of Health has a collection of resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and remote communities about coronavirus (COVID-19). These resources include a poster, audio, digital and video materials. Read more…

Important New resource: Speech Pathology Australia guidance for service delivery, clinical procedures and infection control during COVID-19 pandemic This is an animiated Gif that flashes the word new in red out of a yellow background.

Speech Pathology Australia recognises that speech pathologists and authorities are seeking guidance regarding speech pathology practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. This statement aims to provide in-principle guidance relating to speech pathology service delivery, clinical procedures that pose particular risks, and infection control to minimise transmission of COVID-19. This guidance is provided in the context of a rapidly evolving health care emergency and is subject to change as new data and information becomes available. The Association will continue to provide important updates to members on these critical clinical management decisions. Read the statement...

Government Stimulus packages for business owners

Realise Business* has recorded a webinar “Recovering form business interruption due to the Covid -19”. This webinar has been shared with members who previously registered and will be available on the Association’s new learning platform, free of charge, from Friday 3 April.

Jacqui Attard, CEO of Realise Business, has kindly shared a YouTube video explaining the government’s Stimulus package (22 March 2020) in response to COVID-19.

Realise Business is producing follow-up information about further stimulus packages announced on 30 March 2020. More details will be posted when this becomes available.

In addition to information produced as a response to COVID-19, the Association has collaborated with Realise Business to produce a virtual learning and coaching program to grow and develop members' businesses. The next course is now online and will start in June 2020. Numbers are strictly limited.

* Realise Business is a Not-for-Profit and funded by all levels of government. Speech Pathology Australia has worked with Realise Business in the past to produce CPD for members.

Easy English Resources 

The Association has identified a range of Easy English resources to explain COVID-19.

Risks associated with speech pathology procedures: transmission of COVID-19 

Speech Pathology Australia is aware that many members undertake procedures with clients that involve potential exposure to oral, nasopharyngeal and/or laryngeal/tracheal secretions. Procedures such as: examination of the mouth and face, bedside assessment of swallow function including elicitation of a cough (voluntary or involuntary), instrumental assessment of voice or swallow functions, replacement of voice prostheses, tracheostomy management and others. Members are seeking information and guidance to support safe practice and reduce the risk of transmission of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The purpose of this statement is to guide and support speech pathologists to apply a risk management framework to their practices during the COVID-19 outbreak. Speech pathologists have the knowledge, skills and expertise to understand the risks of transmission of the virus and to act in appropriate ways to reduce those risks in their workplace.

Testing

Speech Pathologists, as health workers, can now gain access to coronavirus testing if they have a fever or acute respiratory infection as indicated in the Prime Minister’s Press Release from National Cabinet on 26 March 2020. Speech pathologists should follow appropriate advice and guidance to protect their own health, their clients’ health and that of the community.

Risks

The risks speech pathologists must consider include the risks to themselves, risks to patients, and risks to the community. Speech Pathologists can refer to the document: Risk Management Safety Tool, produced by Guild, to consider decision making from a risk management perspective.

The following links provide useful information for speech pathologists to assist in their decision making:

Infection Control, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Identifying and managing risks associated with face-to-face contact with patients:

Identifying and managing risks associated with procedures with potential droplet and aerosol exposure

Personal Protective Equipment

Residential Aged Care

Public Health

Employers

Speech pathologists with additional needs

Allied Health is an Essential Service

Speech Pathology Australia is receiving a number of calls and emails from members in regards to how best to continue providing a service to clients.

Federal Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt 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. More information to follow when details are known.

If members do continue sessions with clients, they are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of themselves, theirs clients and their staff. This may mean changing how they work. Decisions will be impacted by the location and nature of your business e.g. mobile practice, home based service, provision of services to schools, services to NDIS participants etc. Members needs to assess the risk of delivering face to face services with clients and how and if they can manage these appropriately in light of available advice.

A member’s infection control policy should reflect government recommendations appropriate for their clinical setting, shared with clients and followed by themselves and any staff. Information is available from many sources including the Australian Government Department of Health and the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission.

Telehealth may be an option for some clients. Clinicians should assess individual client needs and determine the appropriateness of this method of service delivery on a case-by-case basis. Clients will need to agree to this mode of service delivery. Speech Pathology Australia has the following resources as well as some planned CPD events about this area. See "telepractice" under "general" section of Professional Practice page on the Association’s website.

The NDIS have indicated “telepractice can be used where appropriate and with the agreement from the participant. Providers should ensure they meet the NDIS Code of Conduct and NDIS Practice Standards to ensure quality service provision.

The table below that provides information and links to state/territory based information about COVID-19. This information is updated regularly, and the Association advises members to read this information to help guide decision making about servicing clients.

Where will I find updates VIC NSW ACT QLD WA SA TAS NT
What is essential Federal Health Minister, the Hon 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. The 1 person per 4 square meter rule applies for face-to-face services.

Petrol stations, supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, freight and logistics and home delivery service
What is non-essential Provided by the federal government:

Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation) Gyms and indoor sporting venues Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).
Additional resources NSW Health
Tasmanian Health
Australian Health - resources
Australian Health - COVID-19 alert

 

Telehealth resources

The Association has located in one place a range of resources to assist members considering telepractice for the provision of clinical services. Read more...

Speech Pathology Australia National Conference, Darwin 2020 – POSTPONED

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring COVID-19 (Coronavirus) a “controllable pandemic”, followed by the recent Government announcement to not allow large events over 500 people, The Association has taken the necessary step to postpone the planned National Conference in Darwin this May. We are currently planning for this conference to be rescheduled to be run in 2021 in Darwin, with plans for the Melbourne event in 2021 to also be rescheduled. While we are hugely disappointed given the excellent work of the 2020 Conference Planning Committee, we anticipate much of the same in terms of program and events will be put in place for next year.

What happens to my registration already paid?

Full refunds will be paid for all delegate registrations. Fees will not be transferred to 2021, with all refunds to be returned in the near future. Unfortunately, the Association cannot control any decisions regarding costs for travel and accommodation, however we have already liaised with Ozaccom, and members are advised to contact them directly to discuss receiving a refund. For all enquiries, members can email Ozaccom+ or telephone them on 1800 814 611 (Australian Toll Free) or +61 7 3854 1611. 

What will happen in regards to sponsors and exhibitors?

All sponsors and exhibitors will be contacted directly to discuss options for a refund or transfer to next year’s conference.

What will happen to the presentations in the current planned program?

Presenters will be contacted directly with options regarding their presentation. Discussion is also occurring with Keynote presenters. More will be announced soon.

Annual General Meeting

The Association’s AGM and provision to members of the end of year Financial Reports must occur within certain timeframes, with this being reviewed at present in relation to this being conducted as an online member event, pending changes to current statutory requirements.

Member Awards Ceremony

Each year, this is a very special event, which usually occurs alongside the AGM. We still wish to suitably recognise and celebrate our wonderful award recipients for 2020 and are considering a range of options – more information to come on these plans.

Member Supports and Information

The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in unprecedented implications for health professionals working across all public and private sectors. There are many government-based resources, which can be linked from the Association's dedicated COVID-19 page.

Additionally, the Association is continually looking at what we can develop or provide to enable access to information and support.

What do I need to do to keep my business afloat?

The Association is currently developing a specific business webinar through Realise Business, which will focus on managing business disruptions. Save the date for Thursday 26 March, from 1pm to 2pm (EADT) – registrations will open soon for live and recorded access.

Additionally, the Association has created a new resource with Business Continuity information and links to additional information.

How can I deliver services to clients who need to self-isolate or do not wish to attend my clinic?

Telehealth has always been an option for speech pathologists, but this is even more relevant in this current health situation. Important considerations in use of telepractice, along with a free webinar and resource material is available.

Are there rebates for telehealth services?

Telehealth services are eligible under NDIS plans and some PHIs do provide rebates, however currently Medicare items are not covering speech pathology. The Association, alongside AHPA, are actively lobbying government for telehealth MBS items to be extended to all allied health professions, given this critical need.

What should I do in relation to making home visits?

Remember to keep yourself safe and well. If a client has been diagnosed with Coronavirus or is in self-isolation, we recommend members do not visit their home or community setting. Seek other means to maintain services for that client and family.

Association related meetings and travel

The Association is closely monitoring whether its related meetings, such as Branch or committee meetings, should occur. We will be in contact with Branch Chairs or Committee leads. But in the meantime, we support everyone in making reasonable decisions to keep yourself and your family safe.

Speech Pathology Australia National Office

The Association remains as ‘business as usual’ at present, but staff wellbeing is being closely monitored. In this digital world, it will be possible for us to maintain our business activities, even if staff need to work remotely. But if there are delays or disruption, we will appreciate your patience and understanding.