AHPRA Response to Covid-19
The Secretariat will be providing weekly updates about how AHPRA is responding to COVID-19 and what is happening in the health sector broadly.
Helping to share information and advice from governments to practitioners
It is vital that during this evolving pandemic everyone follows national public health directions and guidance.
- Ahpra and the National Boards are working with governments, peak bodies and others to ensure registered health practitioners have access to authoritative public health guidance and are distributing advice where we can
- We have a COVID-19 portal on the Ahpra website with updates and other relevant information, including FAQs (www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID-19/COVID-19-queries.aspx)
- You may have seen that the Australian Government launched a new COVID-19 app, which is available on both iPhones (via the App store) and Android devices (via Google play). It provides a central, trusted, up-to-date source of information for all COVID-19 related information in Australia, covering all states and territories.
- The Australian Government Department of Health released the Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations (the Management Plan) on Monday 30 March. The Management Plan has an operation plan embedded into it that has four phases: Preparedness, Suspected cases or initial cases detected, Outbreak situations and Stand down and evaluation. You can download a copy of the Management Plan here.
- NACCHO have release a communications package targeted for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities with information about COVID-19 and how to #KeepOurMobSafe
- Follow the hashtag #KeepourMobSafe on social media – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for information and media releases on how COVID-19 is impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities
Fast tracking a new pandemic sub-register to increase the health professional workforce
On Wednesday 1 April, we announced a new pandemic sub-register to fast track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners.
The sub-register will enable doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists who previously held general or specialist registration and left the Register of practitioners or moved to non-practising registration in the past three years to return to practice. Only those who are properly qualified, competent and suitable will be returned to the register.
From Thursday 2 April, we started to contact over 40,000 practitioners who meet these criteria to alert them that they will be added to this new sub-register. There is no obligation for anyone added to the sub-register to practise or remain on it. They can opt out at any time, for any reason.
The sub-register is expected to be in place by next Monday 6 April and will be in place for up to 12 months. More information on the sub-register will be available on the COVID-19 update section of the website shortly.
AHPRA remote workforce
As of Wednesday 1 April, we will be a ‘remote workforce’, with our two remaining offices Brisbane and Adelaide closing to the public. The Sydney office closed on Monday 30 March. This is a significant step, not only in our contribution to flatten the curve, but also to ensure we can continue our important work with minimal disruption to the community.
New government app
You may have seen that the Australian Government launched a new COVID-19 app, which is available on both iPhones (via the App store) and Android devices (via Google play). It provides a central, trusted, up-to-date source of information for all COVID-19 related information in Australia, covering all states and territories.
Strategy Group update
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Project Group – responding to COVID-19
Ahpra has established an internal project group to plan with specific guidance relevant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on how the National Scheme can support communities and the health sector in best responding in an effective and clinically and culturally safe way. It is comprised of State and Territory Managers, the secretariat, and the National Director of Strategy and Policy and meets twice a week to feed back to the Agency Management Committee. A key principle of it’s operation is that it must take direction and guidance from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group Chairs, Caucus, Group and community.
It met for the first time this week and we have raised a number of issues of concern from community upon advice from the Chairs:
- COVID-19 cases in the Kimberley
There have been 5 confirmed cases of health workers testing positive for COVID-19 in the Kimberley, a remote region of Western Australia. There has been 12 cases in the region to date. Contact tracing has commenced – however the professions of all the clinicians have not been identified or publicly released, although we can confirm one was a doctor. We as a regulation agency, are looking at our levers of influence to see how we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 to Indigenous communities but would love to hear from you if you have heard of innovative ways community are protecting themselves.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 50 should stay home – need for clarity around this messaging from the PM
The Prime Minister advised this week that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 should stay home and this has caused great concern from mob who are still working, particularly those within our registered health workforces. Clarity was sought from NITV around what this means in practice and on 2 April, Ahpra shared this informative article on social media and to stakeholders within Ahpra to help answer the questions many clinicians and community members had around this ‘strong advice.’ Please share this article with your networks.
- Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations limited supply to PPE
In accordance to the Commonwealth Government’s COVID-19 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Management Plan the PHN’s are identified as the primary distributor of PPE for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, which has raised concern given not all PHN’s have positive working relationships with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and some clinics may miss out on supply.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison populations particularly vulnerable
There is growing concern that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison populations are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 given the proximity of individuals and the often limited access to healthcare prisoners receive in incarceration. I’ve attached an email with links to articles on the issue, thank you Hannah for this.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners – full scope of practice
Need to bolster the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner workforce and to influence a national position to practice at full scope to supply and administer medication consistently across all state and territories in the country (would require influencing state & territory Governments) – the main contributor being the shutdown of communities from visiting health specialists and acknowledging that tele-health infrastructure is not always available or reliable.
We will identify a communication mechanism/process between the Caucus and Group from next week to ensure that any action we take is being led by and informed by you all. At any time, if there’s anything you’d like to raise that’s been concerning to community which you think we could assist with, please let us know.
Cultural safety training
The Cultural Safety training will continue will commence the pilot phase of the training on 27 April. It has been confirmed that due to COVID-19, the pilot phase will be completely online with a mixture of online reading, learnings and online classes with a facilitator and an interactive whiteboard. This is a solution for the pilot phase of the training only and the logistics of the full delivery is still being finalised.
Support sessions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and allied health professionals
If you’re an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctor (and member of AIDA) or an Indigenous allied health professional (and member of IAHA) we highly recommend you participate in their support workshops or circulate to those who may be interested. It’s a challenging time for our health professionals and these are great initiatives to help connect with your peers.
Highly recommended reading
- The Conversation – An article by our group’s very own Dr Lisa Whop and Dr Chelsea Bond on why it’s important to recognise that a public health agenda that is empathetic to Indigenous ill health but indifferent to equity doesn’t inspire transformative action or outcomes: The answer to Indigenous vulnerability to coronavirus: a more equitable public health agenda
- NITV – What the new COVID-19 advice means for Indigenous people over 50
- NACCHO – Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) 20 tips for staying healthy and strong during the coronavirus outbreak
April 15, 2020
Posted by: Charlie
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