Published and accurate as of 15/3/2020
The WHO announced Covid-19 as a pandemic which has caused a great deal of anxiety and panic as our supermarket shelves can attest to. For Australia these are unprecedented times. The unfamiliar can bring to the fore, subconscious fears and concerns and make everyone feel a little unsure and insecure. As allied health professionals you can and will be the voice of compassion and reason. Ensuring you are well educated and prepared for the coming months is going to be vital. Whilst cases of transmission in Australia are still low (197 as of 6.30am on Saturday 14, 2020) to protect the most vulnerable among our population precautions are needed to slow the progression of this virus. As allied health practitioners our duty of care is to our clients and the public we serve as well as our colleagues, family and friends.
With regard to infection control, Dermal Clinicians are well trained in preventing the transmission of any contagious pathogens, whether they be the common cold to blood borne viruses. However, the coming months will require a change in our practices. Therefore it is going to be important to consider ways to protect your businesses and possible economic or operational implications.
This blog post will be dedicated to reminding Dermal Clinicians and the broader industry of our obligations for infection control and providing links to some important resources for your businesses.
The ASDC are also providing some areas to consider in protecting industry practitioners and their businesses as well as the public. This information is based on advice and information provided with collaboration between AHPA partner professional bodies and recommendations from the Australian federal and state health departments.
This is however, information as of this minute. It will be important to stay up to date with alerts and information as it evolves. You can find current information at Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert and About coronavirus (COVID-19)
Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Resources
Whilst infection control and prevention of transmission of disease is something we all do as individual practitioners and as clinical practices it is prudent to provide some links and resources to brief your staff and clients. These resources reinforce the steps and roles we can play to prevent transmission of Covid-19 as well as any other seasonal viruses and flus. These events are a timely reminder that clinical governance processes including annual training in these practices is important. It would be a good time to refresh your staff and remind them to ensure they are utilising and adhering to environmental cleaning and equipment processing protocols, as well as the 5-moments of hand hygiene, standard and where necessary additional precautions in client management. It is also important to ensure that the business has considered and is implementing your infection control policies around illness in your workforce and clientele.
Reducing risk of contracting coronavirus
1. Ensure that you, your staff and your clientele are looking after themselves, the best defence is a good attack.
2. Educate staff and clients to not come into the clinic if they are unwell with fever, sore throats, coughing and sneezing.
3. Ensure that your bathrooms, reception and public spaces have access to hand sanitiser and tissues as well as how to dispose of them safely.
4. Implement higher level and more frequent environmental cleaning protocols in high traffic areas and on high contact surfaces.
Wider Implications for your business to consider
There are wider implications to consider and prepare for as the situation evolves and more stringent social isolation controls may come into effect over the coming months. The government has announced packages to assist small businesses with the economic impact that changing your business operations and practices may have. You can find more information on the government economic stimulus package and how this may relate to you. Some small businesses may be eligible for financial assistance and rebates. If you are business owner it's also important to seek independent advice.
Social distancing: risks and opportunities to business operations and being a socially responsible clinic
Many health and allied health professions are beginning to implement the use of tele health as a strategy to both align with possible pending social distancing recommendations and also as a means of maintaining some continuity of business operations and client care. As primary contact practitioners, that don't require a referral for the public to access our services, we will come into contact with clients that may potentially be unwell before they are aware and have symptoms. As resources such as PPE are also diverted to health professions that need these more desperately than we do, there may be implications for the services we offer. Finally there may be times when you, your staff or clients may have to stay home because they themselves are unwell or they are required to care for family. As a business you may want to consider the following:
1. Utilising online tele-conferencing tools such as Skype or Zoom for new client consultations and client education sessions as well as follow up, post procedural checks rather than face to face in the clinic. Skin health evaluations and assessments obviously require in clinic visits however, offering a solution whereby people can still contact you for advice and check in particularly if they are unwell on the day of their appointment will be a method to avoid loosing revenue but also a demonstration of commitment to their physical and emotional well-being.
2. Re-evaluate your online store. Now is the time to look at your online store. You can look at offering online services such as the above consultation, product assessment and advice, or follow up video conference. You may also want to look at your offering of online products or renew how this is offered to ensure that you have another revenue stream if there is a down turn with in-clinic clients.
3. There may be some impact on the services we can perform or ethically should avoid performing given the pressures or precious resources such as PPE. Whilst healthy people and the general public don't require wearing a face mask, those that are unwell and also health care providers are needing access to face masks, particularly N95 respirators to prevent transmission of the virus.
It is important for Dermal Clinicians to continue to wear masks when performing face to face assessments where you are coming in contact with clients faces as well as non-intact skin and mucous membranes. In alignment with other health professions that are primary care providers and also come into close contact with client respiration and potential droplet transmission. Dermal Clinicians also wear masks for OHS reasons performing microdermabrasion treatments, skin penetration or laser procedures where particulate or vapourised tissue and bodily fluids or plume may be inhaled.
In the coming months we may need to evaluate whether these services are ethically necessary to perform at this point in time. Particularly if pressure on these resources leads to shortages. You may want to consider educating clients that these types of services can wait a few months and offer clinically effective alternatives that don't require these precious resources.
This is to ensure that a) health professionals and those that need these masks will be able to access them and b) you don't have to compromise your own best practice infection control and OHS procedures.
4. Developing a working from home policy,
contracts and negotiating tasks. If a staff member does require to self isolate at some stage due to their own or their families health, but they can contribute to the business in another way it will be important to have work from home arrangements. Staff may be able to still work by updating policies and procedures, developing client education resources, working on your media and marketing for example or conducting online consultations and follow up. These changes in work arrangements may require considering business operational strategies to support this. Including digital security and access to information or communication strategies.
How are the ASDC responding to the Covid-19 and Australian Government response?
On Friday 13th, 2020 the government announced that un-necessary large scale events of 500 people or more should be postponed or cancelled for the coming months. This has had implications already with the Grand Prix cancellation as well as potentially other sporting events such as the AFL. Professional bodies are also looking at their own events in the coming months. Jennifer Byrne as the Chairperson and ASDC representative in forums and discussions for AHPA (Allied Health Professions Australia) will be participating in an emergency forum on Friday 20 March. This forum is discussing Covid-19 and its implications to allied health. We will keep you updated on any news that comes out of these meetings that will benefit members.
The ASDC have been planning our annual education event that was planned in July in Melbourne this year as well as smaller education days in Brisbane (October) and Sydney (November). However, in light of these recent events and due to the Melbourne event being a large scale event, the ASDC General Committee has decided to cancel our Melbourne event in July. We understand that this may cause some disappointment. We will keep an eye on the situation and evaluate planning for an event later in the year in its place.
There are currently discussions around offering in its place an interactive virtual conference and our AGM on our electronic platforms, as well more webinars and smaller scale workshops in the coming months. We have already organised a dermoscopy workshop in April and will work with our industry partners and our members for other exciting opportunities for continuing education. The ASDC are already planning our big 20th birthday next year with a bigger and better conference and gala event, so keep an eye out for more news on this in the coming months and this will be something to put in the calendar and look forward to.
Members can also capitalise on other great benefits of membership including the Ausmed learning platform that has some great e-learning modules, including those to brush up on infection control and patient management. All of our ASDC webinars are also now posted to our Ausmed learning platform. Members can read up on the latest evidence with our EbscoHost journal database and blogs straight from the website or our WIX app on their smart devices. To stay up to date with vital information follow us on facebook, instagram and LinkedIn. Members that have concerns or queries on how to handle coming events are encouraged to discuss with their industry colleagues in our facebook members only group or they can also contact the ASDC directly through our website, facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As a parting message from the ASDC General Committee, we will get through these times together as a community working for the common good. We all need to play our part in our small corner of the world and together we can make a difference.