Allied health services are a core component of primary health care in Australia. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of allied health care in supporting and maintaining the health and wellbeing of the community. It has also presented great challenges to the allied health sector to continue providing care to those who need it while minimising the risks of COVID-19 transmission.
Allied health practitioners and staff are operating in a challenging and stressful environment as a result of COVID-19. Declining mental and physical health and wellbeing among the general population has added to the burden on allied health care services to support patients while navigating the challenges of the pandemic.
As Australia continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that in-person allied health primary care services continue to be available to the community. At the same time, risk of COVID-19 transmission needs to be minimised while providing culturally safe in-person care.
The ANU Research School of Population (RSPH) collaborated with a Canberra-based allied health clinic, the Canberra City Health Network (CCHN), the offices of the Australian Capital Territory Chief Allied Health Officer and South Australian Chief Allied and Scientific Health Officer, and the Australian Government Department of Health, to develop checklists for allied health care staff and practitioners providing in-person care in practice and home care settings during COVID-19.
Purpose of the checklists
The purpose of these checklists is to provide guidance to allied health care staff and practitioners operating during COVID-19 to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission via in-person practice and home care settings. The checklists are based on protocols in use by CCHN and which were evaluated in a pilot study conducted by RSPH.
The checklists are intended as a guide and should not be regarded as a substitute for advice given by the Australian Government Department of Health or State/Territory governments. Practitioners should continue to follow the advice of the Federal Government and respective jurisdictions, and of their allied health peak bodies.
Adapting the checklist for specific contexts
The checklists are living documents and should be adapted to respond to the requirements of individual practices and the contexts in which they are implemented. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and as communities experience different levels of transmission, protocols should be routinely reviewed and updated to reflect the real-time context. For example, patient screening processes should be continuously reviewed and adapted to filter patients who have been in hotspot areas. Checklists should also be tailored to include relevant Department of Health stipulations and prohibitions.
It is crucial that practitioners continue to employ clinical reasoning when providing care. Practitioners need to consider their cohorts of patients, their own health, the levels of COVID-19 transmission in their community and the degree of exposure that all their staff have before, and during their time at work. This clinical reasoning will determine how practitioners may deliver face to face health care with consideration of the context in which they are operating. Clinical reasoning should also be applied with respect to the use of PPE, while ensuring that the minimum standards of PPE stipulated by the Australian Government Department of Health and state/territory governments are followed. Practitioners should use clinical reasoning to safeguard themselves, their colleagues, and patients from the risks of COVID-19 transmission.
Other useful resources
Australian Government Department of Health
This disclaimer applies to the above checklists on minimising the risks of COVID-19 in the provision of in-person allied health care (“Checklist”) published here.
The Checklist was prepared by the Australian National University as part of a pilot study for the Department of Health. The Checklist is a living document and is provided for information only. The Australian National University does not provide any warranty or representation that the information on the Checklist is error free or fit for any particular purpose. The Checklist does not represent policy advice or guidelines to be used by allied health care staff and practitioners operating during COVID-19 to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission and should be treated as a living document to be tailored to specific COVID-19 situations. Anyone relying on the Checklist should continue to follow the advice of the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, and health departments and use it in conjunction with the advice, laws and regulations of your relevant jurisdictions.
The Checklist is the product of professional research and the Australian National University is not liable for any loss resulting from any action taken or reliance made by anyone on the Checklist, any information or material contained on this website (including, without limitation, third party information).