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Alert Level 2 – what we know so far

The Prime Minister has signaled that Level 2 may start as early as next Wednesday (13 May) and her Cabinet is meeting today to decide on what this will involve. With this change coming the issue of what Level 2 will look like is understandably top of mind for most primary care providers.  It is frustrating for us and the profession alike that there is currently only high-level guidance available.

However, in the meantime, the Ministry of Health COVID-19 site states: 

“The advice for the Health and disability sector for Alert Level 2, including face-to-face appointments with patients, is currently being developed. Physical distancing measures will still be in place in Alert Level 2”

We attended a briefing with the Ministry of Health on Friday 1 May for the Allied Health professions.  The Ministry of Health stated that there are no details on what Level 2 will look like – they are still being developed. However, we have started drafting guidance.

Please respect this is our thinking and interpretation of very high level information from the Ministry of Health; some of the following is likely to change depending on what details we receive from the Ministry of Health.

High level assumptions under Level 2 include:

  • COVID-19 screening will continue
  • physical distancing will still be required where possible.  Distancing in waiting rooms and reception areas for example will need to be considered
  • risk assessment of staff and communication / training for them will need to be undertaken of how the practice will operate under the new level
  • cleaning protocols and infection prevention control procedures are available on the Ministry of Health website – cleaning will need to more regular than pre COVID-19. There is also useful information about cleaning on the COVID-19 website
  • it is likely to be recommended that any equipment is not shared between patients unless absolutely necessary and this must be thoroughly cleaned
  • the current “register” of face to face consultations with the Board is likely to not be required
  • PPE guidance will be as per the Ministry of Health guidance. Frequently asked questions about PPE can be found here
  • PPE guidance will be as per the Ministry of Health guidance. Frequently asked questions about PPE can be found here
  • the Board is unlikely (unless required by the Ministry of Health) to determine details of the type of patient/consultation and or procedures you can undertake.  The risk factors are well known now for the vulnerable patients in your care.
  • we understand that travel will loosen under Alert Level 2 although again no details have been provided.

We are of the view that there is some preparatory work that physiotherapists can start including:

  • thorough cleaning and removal of unnecessary items (those items that will impact on infection control) from the practice
  • cleaning and infection control plans developed including planning for more regular cleaning
  • consideration of physical distancing for patients and staff, what changes would be likely to your physical clinic space, bookings and operations of the practice
  • signage
  • consideration of contactless reception functions
  • planning for more regular cleaning
  • planning on how to keep their own bubble safe
  • reading the ‘Public health guidelines for businesses operating under Alert Level 3’. While some information may change for Alert Level 2 there are some good principles and guidance which may still be required.

Please be aware that at this time the above are only assumptions. As soon as we receive the guidance from the Ministry of Health – we will provide it to you.

PPE update

The ministry of Health have updated PPE on the ‘allied health professionals page. We continue to be informed that access to PPE is primarily from the DHB’s and that there are limits on what and how much will be distributed.

To our colleagues in DHB’s, the Universities and our students

Understandably, a lot of the communication to the profession has focused on primary care physiotherapists as they have been the ones hit hard by the significant restrictions on their practice.  The stories are sad, disturbing and the emotional, financial toll has and continues to be huge.

Our colleagues in DHB’s are, in some instances, the front line of the pandemic.  We admire the work and the sacrifices you are making at this time.

The Physiotherapy Schools have undergone catastrophic change – all students and staff moved off campus.  Finding ways to continue our future workforce learning and how to ensure those due to graduate at the end of the year still can, is no small task.
You are quietly and frenetically working in this important part of the wider sector. We thank you for all that you have and continue to do.

Ongoing communication

Overall, thank you to everyone for your kindness, your respect and most of all your patience.  The Ministry of Health is working as hard as they can – as are we to keep you informed.

We acknowledge the stress many of you are under.  It is an extreme situation.  We have confidence in the ability of you and your profession to come out of where we are now and to do that safely.

We will be in touch with you with more detailed Level 2 guidance as soon as we have it.

As always we ask that you keep safe and keep connected to us.  We are a little team who have buckets of commitment and an absolute willingness to assist you in any way we can.  We will keep up our communications so please contact us by calling on +64 4 471 2610 or emailing us at physio@physioboard.org.nz if you have any queries – we are very happy to assist you.

Ngā mihi and stay safe,

Janice Mueller
Chairperson (Physiotherapy Board)

Jeanette Woltman-Black
Chief Executive (Physiotherapy Board)