Physios supporting the pandemic response
Physiotherapists play a key role in Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which also presents challenges and opportunities for practitioners and the Physiotherapy Board of Australia (the Board).
The COVID-19 pandemic has this year brought extreme challenges for health professionals. The physiotherapy profession has moved quickly by necessity to adapt its models of care, including a fast leap to the provision of services via telehealth.
The Board has worked continuously to support the profession along the way, modifying its regulatory approach to accommodate these exceptional and fast-changing circumstances.
CPD and regulatory adjustments
In the past weeks the Board has made a series of pragmatic decisions to temporarily modify regulatory requirements while maintaining patient safety.
These changes include taking a more flexible approach to CPD requirements and the release of a new set of national principles for clinical education through COVID-19 to support students to continue their studies and graduate through COVID-19.
Registered physiotherapists are encouraged to continue to do CPD in 2020. The Board acknowledges the difficulty some practitioners will have meeting CPD requirements this year as a result of withdrawn/denied leave requests, conference cancellations and the re-prioritisation necessary to meet workforce needs.
The Board will not take action at renewal this year on practitioners who cannot meet the CPD standard due to the pandemic.
The pandemic sub-register, launched early April, enables the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners to surge the health workforce and meet anticipated demand.
Physiotherapy has been included among the small number of priority health professions on the register.
On 20 April this year, physiotherapists who have held registration in the past three years were added to the sub-register—those with capacity to help were encouraged to return to practice and join the health workforce.
Physiotherapists play an important role in combatting the impact of the pandemic and maintaining the health of the community.
Some physiotherapists work at the frontline in the acute setting. Others take pressure off medical teams in the emergency department or support the early discharge of patients to free up hospital beds. Community physiotherapists are keeping individuals healthy in the community and out of hospital.
The register operates on an opt-out basis with no obligation to practise or remain on it. Board Chair Kim Gibson encouraged physiotherapists who were unable or unwilling to practice to opt-out at any time, for any reason.
Ahpra Chief Executive Officer Martin Fletcher said that the National Scheme continues to work closely with government and health services to support the health workforce through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practitioners who choose to stay on the pandemic sub-register must comply with the code of conduct, professional indemnity insurance requirements and work within their scope of practice. After a period, 12 months or less, when the pandemic subsides, practitioners will be removed from the sub-register. If they then wish to return to the workforce, they will be able to apply for ongoing registration through the standard process.
The Board wishes to thank all physiotherapists for continuing to provide these vital services across Australia through unprecedented times.
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