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COVID-19 UPDATE – 23 March, 2020

The Physiotherapy Board (the Board) and Physiotherapy New Zealand (PNZ) are working together to address issues in the profession created by COVID-19.

We are absolutely aware of the enormous pressure that many health professionals are under across all health care settings as part of New Zealand’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

We recognise the work that physiotherapists are doing, to ensure that they can provide the best possible care to their patients and also help to protect the public during this challenging time. The primary responsibility is to ensure public safety and in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak this includes ensuring physiotherapists can continue to provide urgent and acute health services.

There are real concerns in primary care settings with face to face contact. While ensuring appropriate self and patient protection is in place; it is now time to immediately plan for no face to face contacts and move to alternative options to provide services. We ask that physiotherapists not wait – we ask that you implement this quickly. Messages are already being issued from the Ministry of Health in this regard for GP’s.

The Board has ceased all face to face work for our contractors and wherever possible electronic meetings will be implemented. We understand that some things will need to be put on hold.

The following information may be of assistance to you.

 

Please bookmark these key links:

Ministry of Health
World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT)
World Health Organisation

1.    Protecting Yourself

We know that most of you are continuing to provide services to your patients. As health professionals your first concern will be the care of your patients; however, we ask that you ensure you do not place yourself or your teams in danger to treat any patient in an emergency or pandemic situation. We understand you may be stressed and we encourage you to talk with your teams and peers and seek support.

2. Continuing to offer physiotherapy services in community settings

You should not risk exposure to COVID19 when providing care to patients. We are aware that there is a shortage of protective equipment for those practising in the community. Follow advice provided by the Ministry, your District Health Board, and your professional organisations about distancing and placing physical barriers between you and your patients. We are now asking you to activate practice options that reduce the risk to you and your teams. Utilise telehealth mechanisms (phone, zoom, skype, facetime etc) where possible to avoid physical contact with patients. Reduction in face to face contact is paramount and plans need to be activated immediately to cease all face to face contact with patients.  While you are swiftly moving to all non face to face contacts please activate separation and appointments calling ahead – no walk ins

PNZ has advocated for access to funding for telehealth for all physiotherapists, and are continuing to seek funding for providers working under Cost of Treatment Regulations.

Telehealth information

3.Register of physiotherapists with additional capacity to assist

The Board will compile a register of physiotherapists with a current APC who are willing to assist during this period of increased workload. This will valuable for acute setting requirements and other activities that may be required such as community testing and contact tracing.

If you hold a current APC and would like to offer your services please contact us as soon as possible with your name, APC number, dates or periods of availability, your area of practise and the region/s in which you are available for work, to this email:

COVID-19@physioboard.org.nz

4. Physiotherapists who have previously held an APC and are currently Non-practising

We would like to call upon New Zealand registered physiotherapists who are currently not practising (and are on the non-practising register), or have left the register and may be able to help either at the front line, in a supporting role or, if applicable on a Ministry initiative (e.g. Healthline or contact tracing).

Please indicate your interest in assisting ASAP by sending an email to COVID-19@physioboard.org.nz. Please include your prior areas of practice and indicate if you have acute care experience and when this was. If you know anyone in this category, we would really appreciate you forwarding this email to them.

For those who have been non-practising for three years or less the process will be streamlined to enable the issuing of an APC in a timely manner.  If you have outstanding matters including conditions, current reviews or investigations you may not be able to have an APC issued – these will be considered on a case by case basis.

5. Important Guidance

PNZ is working hard to provide you with the most up to date guidance, along with the Ministry of Health. This information is regularly updated and is available here.

MSD’s information about the employer wage subsidy is available here.

6. APC On-line registration

You will be aware the Annual Practising Certificate Renewal Process is underway, many of you have already completed it. For those who haven’t, our preference would be that you do it ASAP. HOWEVER, at a minimum, even if you have not completed all your professional development or more likely, not had time to record it, please make sure you apply before 1 April and declare that you are not yet fully compliant with recertification requirements. Reminder: you cannot practise without a current APC.

The Board does understand that you may have left recording your professional development until the “11th hour”, however, getting your application in before your current APC expires will enable you to continue practising, as you will be deemed to hold a practising certificate. (Late applications are NOT processed automatically, and you would need to cease practising legally until we issued your APC). We want you all to be able to continue practising and will have processes in place to work with you to relieve additional pressures where necessary.

The recertification audit is on hold until further notice. 

7. Justified variations in practice

The Physiotherapy scope is a broad and permissive scope, allowing physiotherapists to utilise their knowledge and skills to optimise physiotherapy interventions. We expect you to continue to apply the key principles of professional practice including the need to work cooperatively with colleagues to keep people safe, to practise in line with the best available evidence and to recognise and work within the limits of your competence. However, we also recognise that in highly challenging circumstances, you may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for patients. If concerns are raised about your decisions and actions it will always be considered, taking into account the factors relevant to the environment, resources, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.

The Board and PNZ are currently operating remotely and we will ensure we to our absolute best to continue our core functions. As you would expect we will endeavour to keep you abreast of updates that we think are relevant whilst trying not to inundate you with duplicate content from other organisations. We recognise that the workforce is under both enormous workload and workplace pressure. While acknowledging our roles, we will continue to do everything we can to support you at this time, working alongside the physiotherapy and health sector organisations. If we have not addressed something of regulatory concern to you in respect to COVID-19 please email us at: COVID-19@physioboard.org.nz

8. Fees and financial hardship

There are some physiotherapists who are facing immediate financial crisis.  We want to assist where we can.  We have a legal obligation to ensure payment for an APC – HOWEVER what we can do is offer payment by instalment.  We ask that we are not inundated with requests so please leave this option only for those in dire financial situation.

The following changes are being put in place and our IT provider is aiming to have them effective by 9am Wednesday 25 March.

  • The dashboard will provide the option of payment of 10% and instalments to be paid after 6 months.
  • The Late APC application fee will be waived.  You will only be required to pay an APC application fee (note: you cannot practise without an APC)
  • No return to practice fee will be required on application of those who are non – practising status seeking an APC.

Please email us at: COVID-19@physioboard.org.nz  if you wish to have the option of instalments.

Needless to say we are all finding the current situation unsettling and stressful.  We do care about the profession, we will do whatever we can to help and we will be supportive, kind, compassionate and understanding.

Please bear with us if it takes us a bit of time to respond to your requests – we will do our best.  At this time to reduce any additional stress on our teams we ask that communications with us are polite and we will do the same – thank you.

Noho ora mai,

Janice Mueller
Chairperson (Physiotherapy Board)Jeanette Woltman-Black
Chief Executive (Physiotherapy Board)
Liz Binns
President PNZSandra Kirby
Chief Executive (PNZ)