Advocacy

We have several advocacy activities underway to support you.

COVID-19 Expert Reference Group

We formed the COVID-19 Expert Reference Group (ERG) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ERG has broad representation and expertise in its membership.

The ERG meets regularly to discuss advocacy priorities, review government advice on COVID-19 and identify resources to share with members.

For more information, see our COVID-19 Expert Reference Group terms of reference (PDF).

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

We’ve strongly advocated for access to and use of PPE and urged all governments and health services to commit to a target of zero occupationally acquired health care worker COVID-19 infections.

Our recommendations to Australia’s National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce (NC19CET) were included in the Guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers in the context of COVID-19 (PDF).

Find out more about the results of our Australian member survey on PPE.

COVID-19 vaccines

We’ve undertaken significant work regarding the COVID-19 vaccine strategy and rollout, including advocacy for:

  • improving the Australian Immunisation Register and other systems that support the distribution, supply and tracking of COVID-19 vaccines, including linking to other health datasets
  • expanding the AusVaxSafety surveillance system to facilitate linkage with other health datasets to support post-market COVID-19 vaccine safety
  • implementing a COVID-19 vaccine injury compensation scheme
  • communications to engage early with priority communities to encourage COVID-19 vaccine uptake
  • a public COVID-19 vaccine delivery plan that ensures COVID-19 vaccines will be equitably delivered
  • supporting the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) COVID-19 vaccine advice
  • addressing the rollout and hesitancy of COVID-19 vaccines and encouraging the uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations, including the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to people with disability and COVID-19 vaccination rates in aged care and disability support workers.
  • school staff to be given priority COVID-19 vaccination
  • a COVID-19 national return-to-school guideline
  • equity for Māori & Pasifika in the Aotearoa New Zealand vaccination roll out
  • the call of ‘Doctors Stand Up for Vaccinations’

Telehealth

We’ve successfully advocated in Australia for the expansion and extension of telehealth MBS items. We continue to advocate for the permanent retention of the specialist telehealth items in the MBS, promote incentives and support measures to improve access to telehealth services by priority populations. 

We delivered results of our member survey on telehealth to the Australian Federal Government. Results outlined telehealth benefits to patients, as identified by members. We used this to advocate for telehealth extension. Read more about the outcomes from our telehealth member survey.

Earlier in 2021, we provided feedback to the Australian Department of Health’s consultation on the future of the specialist telehealth items. The Department developed options for reform, subject to the condition that the items, if they were to be retained permanently, should be cost neutral to the Commonwealth.

The Department decided in the interim to retain all existing specialist telehealth items, including the rural loading ones, until the end of 2021. This has constituted a major success for the College and its members. 

Schools

We’re concerned about the impacts of school closures and lockdowns on children and young people and have established a plan with the Australian National Cabinet to prioritise face-to-face learning for school-aged children and adolescents in the context of the Delta variant, including priority COVID-19 vaccines for all school staff. The College has also called for national guidelines to be developed to provide Australian state and territory governments with a best-practice approach to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. Key measures include:

  • mandating masks for certain age groups
  • ventilation of classrooms including HEPA filters
  • staggered school starts
  • physical distancing where possible

Other public health measures such as handwashing and test/trace/isolate also remain important.

Disability

If you have a disability, you are particularly vulnerable to adverse outcomes associated with COVID-19. You’re in a high-risk category if you:

  • have poor health status
  • low levels of health literacy
  • rely on third parties to support your access to care
  • are part of health and disability sectors that are not yet adequately equipped to meet your health needs.

The College supports people with disability and physicians in this area during COVID-19 by:

  • Providing input into the Australian Government Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability and associated materials, including factsheets, through of the Advisory Committee on the Health Emergency Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) for People with Disability.
  • Endorsing a University of New South Wales position statement on access to COVID-19 prevention, screening and treatment of people with intellectual or developmental disability.
  • Providing feedback on an Australian Human Rights Commission document 'Protecting the rights of people with disability: guidelines on human rights based decision making in health and disability care settings in the context of COVID-19'.
  • Endorsing the International Society for Social Paediatrics & Child Health (ISSOP) Declaration on Advancing Health Equity and Social Justice in Response to COVID-19, which advocates for Governments to prioritise, identify and respond to the needs and rights of children and young people with disability in the pandemic response.

Recent College advocacy relating to the impact of COVID-19 on people with disability has focused on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the low numbers and proportion of people with disability and disability support workers who are vaccinated.

We’ve raised concerns about the low COVID-19 vaccination rates in the disability sector and called for more transparency in the Australian government’s current method of publishing data on COVID-19 vaccination in the disability sector. This method doesn’t provide comprehensive data about the progress of COVID-19 vaccination of people with disability.

We’ve also discussed matters related to disability and COVID-19 with several key stakeholders within Australia such as Senator Linda Reynolds, Minister for NDIS, and Chris Faulkner, Assistant Secretary for Disability at the Department of Health. We’ve also written about COVID-19 vaccines and the disability sector to many Australian key stakeholders, including:

  • Professor Brendan Murphy, Department of Health Secretary
  • Minister Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care
  • Senator Linda Reynolds
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