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Third statement from National Boards and Ahpra

02 Apr 2020

As we continue to face the biggest public health challenge of our lives, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic will test our health system and each of us like nothing before it.

While many are caring for sick and frightened patients, some of us will face our own illness and need to care for our families and loved ones. Some will be called on to work in unfamiliar situations where our knowledge and experience are needed most.

Professional judgement will be critical to guide us when resources are limited and demand intense.

The Board and Ahpra understand that the current national emergency presents extreme challenges and we sincerely thank you for your commitment and the care you provide. We know our regulatory approach must be modified to accommodate these exceptional circumstances.

The Board has already started to make a series of pragmatic decisions temporarily modifying some of our regulatory requirements, while maintaining patient safety. These changes are set out below. We have also published responses to questions we’ve asked some of which may apply to you.

Our profession has well established behaviours and values which provide a framework for ethical decision-making in a wide range of situations. You should continue to apply such guidance as far as is practical, recognising these are unique and challenging circumstances.

We must care for our patients and clients, ourselves and each other. In providing care the Board does not expect you to place yourself in harm’s way. Ensuring effective use of personal protective equipment and following relevant infection control requirements and public health advice is key to this.

The Board is aware some health services will be reduced or stopped, including where care cannot be provided in ways that ensure both the practitioner’s and the patient’s safety.

If you know or suspect you are infected, you should follow current public health advice including self-isolating. If you have pre-existing health conditions that increase your risk of infection, you should take action to manage this, such as by discussing it with your colleagues, employer or place of work.

The Board has agreed to the following measures. We are closely monitoring the situation and may make further changes as needed.

Continuing professional development

The COVID-19 emergency is impacting on registered health practitioners’ CPD in various ways, including where CPD events or leave are cancelled. National Boards encourage practitioners to continue CPD relevant to their practice where possible. However, we do not want CPD requirements to take practitioners away from clinical care or cause additional concerns to practitioners already under extra pressure due to COVID-19. Accordingly, if a practitioner can't meet the CPD standard because of the COVID-19 emergency, then we won't take any action for the registration period during which the COVID-19 emergency is in force, without the need to apply for exemption.

However, if the COVID-19 emergency resolves more quickly than expected, we may issue updated guidance about what CPD National Boards would expect to be completed within the current registration period.

Can you help us?

While maintaining standards for safe practice, we, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia (the Board), the body which registers Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, and Ahpra, are working with health departments to develop policies that will get more practitioners into the health system quickly to support you as you come under increasing pressure.

We are prioritising registration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners.

The Board is reaching out to people who:

  • may have let their registration for this year lapse by mistake even if they haven’t been registered for a little while, and
  • have graduated from Approved programs of study (Certificate IV) and who have not yet registered as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner.

If you know anyone like this, can you please encourage them to contact Ahpra.

Anyone can call Jill Humphreys on 0423 318 810 or Amanda Grabyn on 08 8901 8562 with questions and help filling in forms for registration.

We are committed to supporting health practitioners to continue to provide safe care to their communities. We will provide regular updates via email and have a dedicated section for frequently asked questions and COVID-19 updates on the Ahpra website.

Please also ensure you stay up to date via the www.health.gov.au website and your local health department website.

Return to practice for recently retired practitioners

National Boards are working with Ahpra to streamline the return to work process for practitioners who have previously held general registration and left the Register of practitioners or who have moved to non-practising registration within the last three years. This work is being undertaken in support of the work of Health departments to focus on practitioners who are part of the so called ‘surge workforce’ needed to respond directly to the immediate demands of the pandemic and will be expanded in line with their requirements over time.

The Board and Ahpra will provide regular updates on our websites and via email as the situation develops and we respond.

COVID-19 health workforce

If you are already registered and have capacity to help, for example you are working part-time, taking a break or in between roles, you are also encouraged to see if you can assist. Visit the Ahpra website which has links to work opportunities in each state and territory.

Page reviewed 2/04/2020