Updated 09/06/21

Victorian Circuit Breaker Lockdown update

This morning the Victorian Government announced some easing of the Circuit Breaker Lockdown restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne.

Metropolitan Melbourne

From 11:59pm on Thursday 10 June optometry practices can return to providing routine care to patients.

Masks are required to be worn indoors, but are no longer required outdoors unless a distance of 1.5m cannot be maintained.

Density limits of one person per four sqm are required for retail settings, and we understand this also includes optometry retail settings.

The five reasons to leave home will no longer apply. The 10km travel limit from a place of primary residence will be expanded to 25km, although travel further than this limit is allowed for an authorised reason such as work.

People in metropolitan Melbourne are still restricted from travelling to regional Victoria, unless it’s for an authorised reason such as to work or seek care, and the metropolitan Melbourne restrictions follow any person travelling to regional Victoria.

Regional Victorians can travel to metropolitan Melbourne, but must follow the Melbourne restrictions when there.

The Acting Premier noted that updates on additional easing of restrictions will be provided next week, with the expectation that the current differences between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria will be lifted. However this will be dependent on public health recommendations at that time.

Regional Victoria

There are no changes for regional Victoria related to optometry practice.

Services Victoria QR Codes

The Victorian Government also foreshadowed they expect that Services Victoria QR Code check-ins will be mandatory for staff and customers of all businesses, from next week.

The Government is currently working through additional details, and more information will be provided next week, and we will update members as soon as we have any additional information.

 

Updated 27/05/21 5pm

Please note:

We have had some queries as to whether admin support/practice managers who are not allied health professionals (but support the delivery of allied health services) are also “authorised workers” and therefore able to attend workplaces to support the delivery of “essential clinical care” face to face in limited circumstances.

DHHS has confirmed that if these personnel are essential for the operation of the authorised provider/service (noting that the provider/service should only be providing essential care services), then they are covered under the clause of;

Any person who performs work that is essential for the continued operation of:
• an Authorised Provider; or
• authorised health services.

Permits are not required under this lockdown.

Updated 27/05/21 1pm

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino this morning announced state wide restrictions as 11 new locally acquired cases of the more infectious B1.617.1 variant of the virus were reported, bringing the total number of cases linked to the hotel quarantine breach in South Australia to 26 and the total of active cases in the state to 34.

From 11:59pm Thursday 27 May, Victoria will enter a 7-day circuit breaker lockdown. The Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer has confirmed with OV/SA that private practice allied health services including optometry practices (whether clinic or home-based), can provide essential clinical care to patients during the circuit breaker lockdown, where telehealth or virtual care is not possible.

Routine care is not permitted.
Essential clinical care is defined as:

• to prevent a significant change/deterioration in functional independence which would result in an escalation of care needs (e.g. an increase in frequency of treatment needed, an increased need for prescription medication due to a significant increase in pain, requirement for specialist input or review, an increase in care needs, and/or a substantial increase to anticipated recovery time associated with a delay in receiving services)

• to provide assessment and diagnostic services to clients / patients whose care have been delayed as a result of previous restrictions, with any further delay likely to result in deterioration in functional independence or adverse health outcomes (including access to diagnostic imaging services or assessment for prescription of assistive equipment and technology)

• to provide services that are essential as part of a broader plan of care with a medical practitioner (e.g. fitting a brace post-surgery)

• to provide services that are part of a conservative management plan to avoid or delay elective surgery (as agreed with treating team)

• to provide services immediately following elective surgery that prevent secondary complications or aid functional recovery (as agreed with treating team).

Mr Merlino said there will be five reasons to leave your home.

  • shopping for necessary goods and services,
  • authorised work or permitted education,
  • exercise, a 2-hour limit with one other person,
  • care giving, compassionate, and medical reasons
  • getting vaccinated

The 5km limit will return for shopping and exercise. Face masks will also need to be worn inside and outdoors – everywhere except your own home.

Optometrists can also provide click and collect / contactless pickup of glasses and contacts.

Authorities have flagged this new variant as being much more infectious so proper infection control during this period remains of critical importance.

Updated 06/04/2021

Masks now recommended for Victorian optometrists and public-facing non-clinical staff

OV/SA has been advised by the Victorian Government this evening that effective immediately, it “recommends that all healthcare workers should utilise a disposable, Tier/Level 1 surgical mask when directly treating patients. For allied health professionals, the only recommended exception for not wearing a mask is for those professions where clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth is required, such as speech pathology and audiology.”

“Non-clinical staff who have public-facing roles (i.e. have direct contact and interactions with patients) should wear a Tier/Level 1 surgical mask. This is irrespective of the use of a face shield or glass partitions in public facing areas. Cloth masks are not to be used.”

This is a downgrading of the previous advice, from a mandated requirement to wear a mask to a recommendation to wear a mask.

The ‘Coronavirus Disease – COVID-19 PPE for Private Practice Allied Health’ has not yet been updated on the Department of Health website, however we expect this document will be replaced with the revised version in the next few days. Keep checking the website if you would like to read more.

Updated 27.2.2021

From 11.59pm Friday 26 Feb 2021, Victoria returned to COVIDSafe settings.

Under these settings, which were initially introduced in Victoria in mid-December 2020 and reintroduced on 26 February 2021, optometrists are required to wear a Tier/Level 1 surgical mask. Further information is available here.

Non-clinical staff (including but not limited to reception staff and practice managers) who have public-facing roles i.e. have direct contact and interactions with patients, must wear a Tier/Level 1 surgical mask. This is irrespective of the use of a face shield or glass partitions in public facing areas. Cloth masks are not to be used. Non-clinical staff must maintain appropriate physical distancing from patients and members of public.

Patients are not legally required to wear a face mask unless the practice is located within a shopping centre or co-located within a retail outlet. However, it is highly recommended that optometry practices continue to request that patients wear a face mask when entering their premises, as part of the provisions of their COVID-Safe business plans.

Maintaining a strong focus on infection control remains critically important.

For more information click here

Updated 17.2.2021

The Victorian Premier this morning announced that the ‘circuit breaker action’ will be lifted from 11.59pm Wednesday 17 February.

For optometrists this means that from Thursday 18 February practices can resume as per the conditions that were in place before the five day lockdown.

New requirements include that masks must be worn indoors at all times, however this was already in place for optometrists and all allied health, prior to the circuit breaker action.

There are no changes to the density requirements, and of course maintaining a strong focus on infection control remains critically important.

Updated 12.02.2021

At the Victoria Premier’s press conference today ‘Circuit Breaker Action’ was announced from 11:59pm Friday 12 February to 11:59 pm Wednesday 17 February.  This equates to a short, sharp and unfortunately much harder lockdown due to concerns over what Premier Andrews described as a “hyper-infectious COVID variant moving at hyper-speed”.

The table of restrictions released today applies for all of Victoria and indicates that allied health services can only be provided under the following circumstances:

(i) allied health services provided by allied health professionals working as essential workers in hospitals or in residential care facilities providing critical clinical care or as directed by the hospital;

or

(ii) allied health services provided by allied health professionals working in private practice providing care through telehealth and other virtual care options.

Unlike the previous lockdowns, due to the shorter, defined period of this ‘circuit breaker action’ no face to face care is allowed in private allied health practice. This means that unless practitioners are employed within an inpatient health service setting or residential aged care facility, it is recommended that all face to face appointments be cancelled for the next five day period or reschedule to telehealth where possible.

If you are able to provide services through telehealth please ensure your member profile is updated to reflect this information. Telehealth resources are available for members online.

Optometry Victoria South Australia will inform members immediately via email of any further updates.

Updated 04.02.2021

Victoria-wide changes to COVID-19 restrictions came into effect from 11.59pm last night (3 February), and masks are now mandatory in all public indoor spaces, apart from when eating or drinking. At this time, there is no indication as to how long these new restrictions will be required.

For Allied Health providers, industry restrictions remain consistent with the DHHS industry guidance aligned to ‘COVIDsafe Summer restrictions’.

Advice this morning from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is that whilst the industry guidelines state that patients/clients do not need to wear a face mask unless the Allied Health practice is located in a shopping centre/retail setting, they would strongly encourage practitioners (in all private practice settings) to reinstate requirements for mask wearing by patients (as ‘public indoor space’ has currently not been defined).

Updated 18/01/2021

It has been confirmed with the DHHS that optometrists and non-clinical staff who have public-facing roles (ie. have direct contact and interactions with patients) must wear a Tier/Level 1 surgical mask.  This applies to all optometry practices irrespective of whether in a shopping centre, co-located with another retail establishment or as a standalone practice. more information is available in the PPE for Allied Health in Private Practice Settings.

Updated 14.01.2021

The Victorian Government today advised that face mask requirements will return back to pre-Christmas levels from 11:59pm Sunday Jan 17, 2021 (not mandatory in all indoor public settings but still mandatory inside shopping settings).

Updated 05.01.2021

The Industry Restart Guidelines: Allied Health advise that masks must continue to be worn at all times by allied health professionals and practice staff. This was also recently confirmed by Victorian Government’s PPE Task Force. Updated information on appropriate use of PPE is available in the updated Guide to the conventional use of PPE.

From the Victorian Government Coronavirus website: “From 5pm on 31 December 2020 you must wear a fitted face mask when you are in public indoor spaces unless you have a lawful reason not to.”

In Victoria, the total number of people in the practice must not exceed 1 person per 2 square metres. ‘Where workers are engaging in activities with customers, they are included in the square metre rule.’ This is referenced in the Restart Guidelines above.

The COVIDSafe Summer webpage includes details on the Victorian government’s free QR code service for business.

Please note that as per our direct EDM’s to members DHHS has also updated its PPE Advice for Allied Health in Private Practice Settings

Updated on 27.11.2020

We are delighted by the Victorian Premiers 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.

As part of this new opening strategy in the Third Step, telehealth services are preferred and a treatment density quotient applied. A document has been provided with extensive advice; “Industry Restart Guidelines; Allied Health and other primary health services.”

For clinical settings, indoor groups (when permitted) will need to operate with a density quotient of 1 person per 4 square metres, maximum number of 10 people per group  – practitioners excluded from the group numbers.

To operate a ‘business from the home’, the owner/practitioner of the business must ensure their compliance with Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions as follows;

  • The residential premise must be registered as a business premise and have a COVID-safe plan in place
  • A separate entry/exit point must be available for patients/clients to access the premise
  • Patients/clients cannot access any shared facilities in the owner/practitioner’s place of residence – including bathrooms/toilets and foyer areas
  • Density quotients, physical distancing and PPE requirements remain applicable
  • Patients/clients must wear a face covering for the duration of the intervention/treatment – the only exception being where a patient/client is legally exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering as per DHHS directives;

Optometrists:

Update 27/11/20: Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) advises that healthcare workers should be wearing a surgical mask, not a reusable cloth mask. Eye protection is no longer mandated for Tier 1 PPE, for patient-facing health workers providing care and/or treatment of COVID-negative patients and/or patients who have no risk factors of COVID-19 (e.g. clinical risk or epidemiological factors). The requirement for eye protection under Tier 1 PPE has now been removed.

P2/N95 respirators and gowns are not required unless there is suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. ‘Conventional Use of PPE’ guidance document is currently being updated. Unless damp or soiled, you can wear your mask for up to four hours. Remove and dispose of all items before going on a break and resume before returning to work. 

Patients:

Patients are 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

Front of house staff:

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’”. 

COVID-Safe Plans

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:

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.

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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