Allied Health professionals can now rejoice as the government has updated its guidance for allied health professionals working in settings outside DHBs, clarifying they can all provide services under alert level 3. Since the Covid-19 pandemic came about last year New Zealand has had several restrictive lockdowns in an attempt to reduce the transmission of Covid19 and each time these occur, Allied Health services had been shut down. It had been the case even during Auckland’s current lockdown which began on August 17, 2021
Allied health professionals are qualified health practitioners with specialised expertise in preventing, diagnosing and treating a range of conditions and illnesses. The allied health workforce is made up of health professionals who are not part of the medical, dental or nursing professions. There are at least 43 professions that are classed as Allied Health professions in New Zealand including Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Psychology and Psychotherapy, among others.
Confirming the news, Dr Martin Chadwick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, Ministry of Health, has told Indian Weekender, “The Ministry has updated its guidance for allied health professionals working in settings outside DHBs, clarifying they can all provide services under alert level 3. There are more than 43 different Allied Health professions which include physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths.”
He added, “As we’ve continued to work with the sector, maintaining a balance between protecting patients and maintaining their general wellbeing has been a top priority. The change will enable roughly two thousand allied health professionals in Auckland alone to continue to see patients, ensuring more people are treated in the community, and preventing some trips to primary care or hospital settings”.
However, he did reiterate that providers must practice all Covid 19 protocols.
“Even though these alert level 3 barriers have now been removed, we’ve reiterated to providers that they must still screen patients, and practice all COVID-19 measures such as appropriate distancing, strict use of infection, prevention and control measures, PPE use and scanning in. Providers should also continue to offer telehealth services if this is an appropriate alternative.
We'd like to reiterate our thanks to the thousands of hard-working Allied Health professionals throughout the past 20 months” he said.
The Allied Health professionals have welcomed the news and say it was long due.
Giving her reaction to the news, Lynne Holdem, President, New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists, says, “The Ministry of Health has released level 3 decision making and risk assessment trees for allied health professionals considering working with clients at level 3 and 4. I appreciate the greater clarity and safety information for allied health professionals released by the ministry.NZAP members are encouraged to follow the ministry guidance to ensure safe and ethical practice in levels 3 and 4. "
She added, “NZAP council recognises the distress of clients wanting to access face to face psychotherapy but an airborne virus doesn’t. We empathise with the frustrations of some colleagues, and other allied health professionals, in having to work with current restrictions. We get how unsatisfying telehealth sessions can be and how irritating the mask-wearing and other recommendations are. The council of NZAP recommends, nevertheless, that members continue to prioritise keeping themselves, clients and whanau safe, physically as well as mentally. We must do our bit to protect the health system and medical colleagues from being overloaded with patients seeking hospital care in the event of still higher escalations of Covid contagion.”
Allied Health is a very important part of the healthcare workforce in New Zealand and their role in reducing the need for patients to seek help from ED or their GPs is well documented in the recent release of “In plain Sight” from AHANZ to the MoH.
Sharing more about the same, the spokesperson of Osteopaths New Zealand said, “Osteopaths New Zealand (ONZ) had been actively lobbying on behalf of the Auckland based osteopaths who have been very keen to return to work to help manage patients who have been struggling and have had to go without treatment for coming up 10 weeks. This has been necessitated by a lack of clarity around the MoH guidelines that have created a significant dilemma for the workforce. But now AH has gained greater clarity around working at Level 3. There are still restrictions in place that place the onus on the clinicians to ensure that patient safety is prioritised and that there is appropriate clinical justification for any face to face consultations that are carried out.”
It may be noted that a petition, which was started on October 5' 2021 by Meridy Boyd-Clark, asking that Allied Health Professions be included in the essential workforce, able to operate at all alert levels had gained around 13000 signatures.
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