Updated on 18 October 2020
We are delighted by the Victorian Premier’s announcement that optometrists in metro Melbourne can resume routine face-to-face care from 11.59pm, Sunday 18 October.
Of course, all practices need to ensure they have an up to date COVID safe plan in place, and maintain a strong focus on strict infection control procedures.
We will be ensuring that we remind community members in metropolitan Melbourne and beyond of the importance of regular eye examinations and maintaining good eye health and beyond through Good Vision for Life and broader media engagement opportunities.
The Department of Health and Human Services Victorian website on 11.08.2020 updated their clinical information to advise that all healthcare workers should be wearing a surgical mask and eye protection. All healthcare interactions in the state of Victoria are now considered “Tier 1”: requiring hand hygiene, Level 1 surgical mask and eye protection. P2/N95 respirators and gowns are not required unless there is a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus. Face shields have been suggested where practical.
Any patients with upper respiratory tract symptoms, a known COVID-19 contact or whom is suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19 should be immediately referred to a testing centre/the nearest hospital for assessment and emergency eye care when applicable.
At this stage, health professionals and their staff must wear a Level 1 surgical mask and not reusable cloth masks.
Patients are only required to wear a face covering that covers both their nose and mouth. Practitioners should however make a COVID risk assessment on patients who are symptomatic and refer to a COVID testing site/hospital. See the Department of Health and Human Resources for more information on what is an appropriate face covering
Unless damp or soiled, you can wear your mask and goggles/face shield for up to four hours. Remove and dispose of all items before going on a break and resume before returning to work.
The DHSS has clarified that “From the perspective of public health services, this guidance is ‘role agnostic’ and applied to all staff (clinical and non-clinical) as appropriate to their potential exposure and patient interactions. If it is deemed that these staff should be wearing a mask, under the guidance this is specified as a ‘level 1 or type 1 disposable surgical mask’”. They also included on 11.08.2020 that unless they are directly involved in treating patients, eye protection for ancillary staff is not required.
In their “Guide to the conventional use of PPE” updated 06.08.2020.
To support optometrists and optometry practices during Victoria’s Stage 4 lockdown, Optometry Australia has developed a COVID safe plan template for all practices in the Greater Melbourne area, building on the minimum requirements of a Victorian workplace COVID Safe Plan. Once finalised, your COVID safe plan must be accessible for all practice staff and may be requested by DHHS representatives during spot checks or in the case of a positive diagnosis linked to your practice.
Optometry Australia recommends that optometrists and optometry practices:
1. Understand your responsibilities
- Information on public health directions applying to both employees and employers is available here.
- In addition to your COVID safe plan all Victorian workplaces are required to establish and maintain a register of every person who attends the workplace for a period of more than 15 minutes. This includes all workers (including sub-contractors) and any customers, clients or visitors permitted in the workplace (including workplace inspectors). If an employee or visitor tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), a current and accurate workplace attendance register will allow the employer to immediately identify anyone who has been in close contact with that person within the prior 48 hours. A template for the attendance register is also available for you to download.
You can also refer to the following guidance:
- Optometry Australia: Infection control factsheet
- Optometry Australia: Advice on cleaning requirements
- DHHS: Preventing infection in the workplace
- DHHS: Preparing for a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace
- DHHS: Planning and responding to cases of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- DHHS: Cleaning and disinfecting to reduce COVID-19 transmission
- Worksafe: Managing COVID-19 risks – face coverings in workplaces
- WorkSafe: Other relevant industry specific guidance
- Business Victoria: Attendance record template
2. Prepare your plan
Refer to the template provided below. Your COVID Safe Plan must set out, at a minimum:
- The process you have in place to keep records of all staff or patients who attend the practice
- Your actions to mitigate the introduction of COVID-19 in your practice
- The level of face-covering or personal protective equipment (PPE) required for your workforce
- How you will prepare for, and respond to, a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in your practice/workforce
Download the template:
3. Keep your plan up to date and ready
Your COVID Safe Plan must be reviewed and updated routinely, and when restrictions or public health advice changes. Optometry Australia recommends that during the Stage 4 lockdown in Victoria, your COVID safe plan should be reviewed fortnightly.
Organisations with multiple premises must complete a COVID Safe Plan for each location.
You do not have to lodge your COVID Safe Plan with the Victorian Government. However, you may be required to provide the COVID safe plan to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or Worksafe upon request or in the event of a confirmed positive case at your workplace. There will be random business spot checks for COVID Safe Plans.
4. Share your plan
Your workforce needs to be familiar with this plan. Where possible it is recommended that you discuss the plan with all practice staff before you finalise it.
Once you have completed the plan, share it with your team and make sure it is readily accessible at all times.