01 May 2020
Governments have imposed social distancing measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Commonwealth, state and territory governments are directing Australians to stay at home and limit their travel to essentials, such as food shopping, caring for elderly relatives and necessary medical or healthcare appointments.
The Board is aware that government social distancing measures and other measures such as cancellation of all non-urgent elective surgery are impacting on many private practices. We acknowledge the professionalism of podiatrists and podiatric surgeons who have adapted (and in some cases halted) their practice to comply with the relevant Commonwealth and state and territory health directions and guidance about COVID-19.
This has contributed to containing the spread of the virus in Australia while ensuring that the public can still safely access urgent and essential podiatry care when needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Registered health practitioners provide essential healthcare to their patients and are an important, trusted source of health information for the public, especially during these unprecedented times.
Advice and actions by registered health practitioners can play an important role in reinforcing essential public health messages. However, advertising that encourages non-essential face-to-face consultations while social distancing measures remain in place may undermine these messages, and in some cases, may also breach the advertising restrictions under the National Law.
This means it is essential that all advertising of regulated health services aligns with current advice from relevant state, territory and Commonwealth health departments.
The Board recommends that you download the Australian Government Department of Health’s recently launched app, Coronavirus Australia. This app will help you to stay up to date with the latest official information and advice and to find relevant state or territory information, including on business operations and social distancing.
For more information on your advertising responsibilities under the National Law, visit Advertising resources on the Ahpra website.
The Board’s expectation is that telehealth should only be used if it is safe and clinically appropriate for the podiatry service being provided. You must adhere to the same principles you apply when providing podiatry care during a face-to-face consultation.
Telehealth guidance has been developed outlining Ahpra and the National Boards’ expectations of how registered health practitioners will use telehealth in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should also check with your professional indemnity insurance (PII) provider to ensure your PII arrangements cover you for telehealth.
Ahpra has published information to guide you on the options for managing your PII during COVID-19 if your circumstances have changed.
Podiatric surgeons should carefully consider the latest advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) published on 23 April 2020 about the incremental lifting of restrictions on elective surgery from 27 April 2020.
As noted in the AHPPC statement, the arrangements will be reviewed at the end of the initial two week period and you should regularly check the Australian Government Department of Health website and your local state/territory health department’s website for further updates.
The Board and Ahpra will provide regular updates on our websites and via email as the situation develops and we respond.
Some useful resources to help you manage COVID-19 include:
Please keep abreast of these updates and respond accordingly to support ongoing access to safe podiatry services, including for those who are most vulnerable.
We must care for our patients, ourselves and each other. The Board does not expect you to place yourself in harm’s way while providing care. Ensuring effective use of personal protective equipment and following relevant infection control requirements and public health advice is crucial to this.
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 discussing it with your colleagues, employer or place of work.
We also urge you to take care of your own health during this pandemic. It is so important that podiatrists and podiatric surgeons look after themselves and each other. Information about general support services is available on the Ahpra website.
Chair, Podiatry Board of Australia