Over the next few weeks, I’ll be in more regular contact with you to update you on the huge amount of urgent work the College has underway to help you deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
We’re now entering the exponential growth phases of cases which epidemiologically, as you know, is to be expected. As cases and workloads increase significantly, in addition to the health and wellbeing resources I’ve already shared this BMJ article is worth reading. It talks about some of the less obvious psychological effects of facing the very difficult life or death decisions many of us may face in coming weeks, such as moral injury, and ways of coping.
I’ve been receiving emails from many of you. Please keep sending them. You’re highlighting immediate issues in both countries that we can address with regulators, state, federal and Aotearoa New Zealand governments, healthcare services and allied healthcare providers.
I acknowledge the many valid questions and concerns trainees have about the impact of the change in exam dates on job applications, training time and progression through training. Today we released a survey for all trainees to give us feedback and this will allow us to better identify the key questions by specialty program as well as the overarching concerns. We are working as quickly as we can to give you certainty on these complex issues and will advise as soon as possible.
We have received a high volume of emails from members in the last 24 hours asking for more telehealth and tele-prescribing webinars. We understand you’re frustrated that our first two webinars are booked out, so please be assured that we are working as quickly as possible to expand capacity on these and to program more sessions. We will advise you of these as soon as we can. For those of you who couldn't register, the recording of the telehealth webinar will be available in the 'resources' section of our coronavirus webpage post-event.
We are also strongly advocating to government for an increase in access to Medicare telehealth items for the services our members provide and are hopeful of further announcements in this regard in the very near future.
You can also find updated information relating to telehealth items and definitions on our website. Be aware that policy is moving rapidly in response to clinician feedback including feedback from the RACP.
We are still concerned about access by our members to PPE and are continuing to raise this issue with government.
The response of many of you to this crisis has been humbling. I have been contacted by a retired Australian physician, asking if he can help.
Under emergency legislation the Commonwealth is preparing for a national opt-out call-up of approximately 40,000 formerly registered and considered available health care personnel. AHPRA has been directed by the Australian Government to focus on the following professions immediately:
- medical practitioners
- specialist medical practitioners
- nurses, midwives and enrolled nurses
- paramedics and pharmacists.
Other healthcare professionals will be included in due course. AHPRA is working with governments to finalise this process and will provide more information shortly, which we will publicise.
Aotearoa New Zealand
Aotearoa New Zealand is also ramping up its healthcare workforce to respond. Healthcare workers can register on the Ministry of Health website to be skillset matched. As at today 2,500 retired workers or those on maternity leave have already responded.
Like Australia, we are still hearing that PPE shortages are critical and understand that masks and gowns are in particularly short supply. I am even hearing physicians in older at-risk age groups cannot source adequate PPE.
The Government has established a Working Group to source PPE internationally through large New Zealand retailers existing supply and distribution chains and is working with local manufacturers to see if some PPE items can be made onshore.
Extraordinary General Meeting and Annual General Meeting
Some members are asking why we are continuing with the EGM and AGM whilst members are busy dealing with COVID-19.It’s a sensible question.
The College is required to comply with the Constitution and Corporations Act, which means these meetings need to proceed in accordance with those requirements. The College is actively monitoring Government changes or relaxation of the current legislative requirements as a result of COVID-19 and other available options. These issues are being discussed by Government and industry bodies as many companies face similar issues.In the meantime, we ask all members to vote online.
Submitting a proxy requires it to be physically submitted by the appointed proxy (who must be a member) at the meeting, otherwise it is invalid under the current Constitutional requirements.
Government responses in both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand to COVID-19 clearly indicates that it may not be possible to physically attend the meetings on Thursday, 16 April or Monday, 4 May, thus it is recommended members vote online.
We will keep members informed of any changes to the current circumstances with the election, EGM and AGM.
Thank you all for all your efforts in supporting our communities in this time of need. Please stay safe in both nations this weekend and I will be in touch again next week.
Associate Professor Mark Lane