Open for emergency careOpen for routine careOpen for click and collectMasks for optometrists and staffMasks for patients over 12Distancing
YesYesYesYesYes1 per 2m2

Update 22-11-2021

Managing COVID exposure risk in practices
To coincide with South Australia reaching 80 per cent double vaccination of people aged 16+ years and the reopening of SA state borders, SA Health have produced a new document, Assessing and managing the risk: COVID exposures in primary and community health care settings that details the quarantine and testing requirements of COVID-19 contacts who work in primary and community health care settings, including optometry, and how their risk of exposure can be mitigated.

We understand that many of you may be anxious by the re-opening of borders with the potential increase in risk of exposure to COVID-19 from community transmission and potential impact on optometry businesses. However, by following the guidance provided, the time required by optometry practice staff members to quarantine may be reduced, with potentially less impact on the practice.

For example, one of the medium risk scenarios outlined in the detailed risk matrix is where a vaccinated staff member is exposed to a vaccinated contact for less than one minute indoors. If the optometry staff member was wearing a P2/N95 respirator with eye protection, the exposure would be considered low risk and there is no requirement to quarantine. However, if the staff member was wearing a surgical mask, then this may be considered a casual contact which requires quarantining until initial negative test (PCR) results are received. Those deemed casual contacts are also required to test on Day 4, 6 and 13.

We encourage you to take some time to review the document, and the matrices, to ensure you understand the implications for you and your practice.

Eye protection
The guidance also explains that for primary or community health professionals (including optometrists) who are required to come within 1.5m of patients during the provision of health care, eye protection is strongly recommended, but not required, to minimise transmission risk.

What constitutes eye protection is a grey area unfortunately, as none of the documentation specifies this, so this remains your discretion. While the SA public health team suggests closely fitted wrap-around goggles and safety glasses, many members have opted to wear clip-on side shields attached to prescription glasses, and others are wearing tighter fitting or wrap around eye protection. While face shields are also an option, we understand they are not practical for many tests that optometrists undertake so are unlikely to be useful from that perspective.

Fit testing
The guidance document notes that P2/N95 must be fit checked at a minimum, and should be fit tested, otherwise it is considered surgical mask use.

P2/N95 masks are a higher standard of PPE, which more effectively seal around the wearer’s nose and mouth. They come in all different shapes and sizes and are designed to be moulded to the face.

Fit checking ensures the mask fits snugly and creates a seal to minimise the number of particles that can bypass the filter. This visual guide recommended by PHN Country SA and also this video on the SA Health webpage, provides step by step instructions to perform a fit check for a P2/N95.  Last year, SA Health introduced the D95+ respirator mask, which is equivalent to the P2/N95 surgical respirator masks currently in use.

While SA Health have not provided a list of recommended fit testers, other government departments have suggested that AusHealth and Health Safety Environments Australia can provide this service.

Update 18-11-2021

Quarantine
To coincide with South Australia reaching 80 per cent double vaccination of people aged 16+ years, a new Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine (TTIQ) model is being introduced in South Australia from 23 November 2021. This new model may mean that less people will be required to quarantine. It will also enable more people to quarantine for shorter periods of time.

The Department for Health and Wellbeing have this evening also sent through guidance on quarantine and testing requirements that are specific to allied health, including optometry.

The document includes a number of risk matrices that outline the level of exposure and subsequent testing and isolation requirements for both staff and patients, to assist in managing furlough arrangements, in the event of exposure to COVID-19.

The document also outlines step-by-step procedures should primary and community health care settings (including optometry) be required to support contact tracing in their workplace.

Update 3-11-2021

The South Australian Government has introduced mandatory vaccinations for optometrists and optometry practice staff.

For information on the HR implications of the mandate for your practice (including specific requirements for staff and practice owners), view the recording of our webinar held on 3 November 2021 below.

Mandatory Vaccinations for South Australian optometrists and practice staff Webinar

Presented by Emma Dalley, Principal Lawyer of Industry Legal Group

Updated 21-10-2021

Mandatory Vaccinations for Optometrists
We received confirmation late yesterday evening that as of close of business 20 October 2021, the Emergency Management (Healthcare Setting Workers Vaccination No 2) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 are in effect.

The Direction states that a person can only engage in work or perform duties in all healthcare settings (including in optometry) from 8 November 2021 if:

(a)         the person has received at least one dose of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccine; and
(b)         the person has received, or has evidence of a booking to receive, a second dose of a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine within the interval after the first dose recommended by the ATAGI for that COVID-19 vaccine; or
(c)          the person has a medical certificate from a legally qualified medical practitioner certifying that the person has a medical exemption from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on either a permanent or temporary basis in accordance with the guidelines published from time to time by ATAGI. This certificate must specify the nature of the exemption and the basis on which it applies and is required to be endorsed by Chief Public Health Officer or her delegate. The person must also provide the operator of the optometry setting with a copy of the endorsement provided.

This Direction expands the COVID-19 vaccination requirements to cover optometrists and all persons engaging in work or duties at a healthcare setting including cleaners, administrative and executive staff and students undertaking placement, regardless of whether they work in a patient or a non-patient area. This Direction also applies to all persons who attend a healthcare setting in the course of their work or duties, including if their attendance is incidental such as delivery drivers or suppliers.

Now that the legislation has been confirmed, we are working with our legal partners at Industry Legal Group to host a webinar that will provide information on the HR implications of the mandate for practices, including specific requirements for staff and practice owners. We will let you know as soon as we have a date for this.

Mask Requirements
As a reminder, it is mandatory for all people in optometry settings to wear a mask at all times. This includes optometry care providers, patients, administrative staff, employees, visitors, students, contractors and any other person present on site.

Reusable cloth masks cannot be used by staff in healthcare settings. Patients can wear either cloth or surgical masks.

As a reference, Adelaide Primary Health Network (PHN) has compiled a list of PPE providers who can supply practices. It should be noted the list is not exhaustive, and Adelaide PHN and SA Health do not endorse any specific providers.

Updated 18-10-2021

Possible Mandatory Vaccination Update
South Australian members should be aware that as of 5:00pm 7 October 2021, the Emergency Management (Healthcare Setting Workers Vaccination) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 issued under the Emergency Management Act 2004, came into effect.

This Direction places COVID-19 vaccination requirements on all persons working in a public hospital, private hospital or ambulance service, including patient transport service in South Australia. A public hospital includes all services provided by a Local Health Network, not just those physically located in a hospital.

While this Direction does not currently apply to individuals working in private practice, we have been advised by the Department of Health that planning is underway to extend this Direction to the rest of the health care sector, including optometrists in all other community and private health care settings. We will advise members as soon as specific details are available.

Updated 05-08-2021

As announced by the South Australian Premier Steven Marshall earlier this week, South Australia moved to Level 2 restrictions as of 12.01am Thursday 5 August.

We have received confirmation from the Acting Chief Allied Health Officer that under Level 2 restrictions, face masks are still required in health care settings, including optometry practices.

This means that optometrists, practice staff and patients are required to wear masks.

The requirement that a person wear a face mask does not apply to a person:

  • if they have a relevant medical condition, including problems with their breathing, a serious condition of the face, a disability or a mental health condition (Evidence of a relevant medical condition must be produced on request);
  • in circumstances where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication, such as to enable communication by or with any patron who is deaf or hard of hearing;
  • if the person is a child under 12 years of age.

Please note we have received many enquiries about how to handle situations where a patient refuses to wear a face mask (often without any valid reason). Further information on this topic can be found here.

Under Level 2 restrictions the density quotient is now 1 person per 2 square metres.

As always, a strong focus on infection control procedures remains critically important.

Diligent use of QR code check-ins is critical in practices, to enable fast and effective contact tracing, should this be required.

Updated 27-07-2021

The South Australian Premier Steven Marshall this morning confirmed that the SA Lockdown will ease from 12.01am Wednesday 28 July.

Under the eased restrictions SA optometrists will be able to return to routine care from Wednesday 28 July.

Masks are mandatory in all public locations. Masks are also mandatory in health settings including in optometry practices, and must be worn by optometrists, practice staff, patients and visitors to optometry practices, including in communal staff areas.

Practices must also observe the density quotients of one person per four square meters.

The five reasons to leave home have been removed and the two and a half kilometre limit on travel no longer applies.

Further easing of restrictions are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

 Financial assistance for SA and Victoria

Applications can still be made for income support through the Federal Government Covid-19 Disaster Payment for the lockdown periods. Applications must be made through the Services Australia website.

The following time periods for applications are outlined below.

 

Location

Lockdown dates Claims open Claims close
Victoria 16 July to 22 July 2021 23 July 2021 12 August 2021
Victoria 23 July to 27 July 2021 25 July 2021 19 August 2021
South Australia 20 July to 27 July 2021 28 July 2021 16 August 2021

 

Optometry practices that are not registered for GST or sole trader locums not registered for GST can also apply for these payments. Some eligibility requirements do apply.

South Australian practices can find additional information and register interest in state specific business support payments through the South Australian Department of Treasury and Finance.

Need more information?
If you require further COVID-19 clarification or advice, please don’t hesitate to contact the Optometry Australia Optometry Advisor Helpdesk on 03 9668 8500 or at national@optometry.org.au

 

 

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