08 May 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting us all, both personally and professionally. It is altering how we live and how we work in a rapidly changing environment. Government is having to keep pace with the evolving nature of the pandemic to respond appropriately and in line with shifts in knowledge and understanding.
This update includes the latest information about the impact of COVID-19 and the restrictions on dental practice. Put in place by government to protect the public, the restrictions are in response to the challenges COVID-19 presents.
The Dental Board of Australia’s (the Board) last update on 23 April 2020 outlined the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s (AHPPC) change in its recommendation from level 3 to level 2 restrictions for dental practitioners in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today’s update highlights the AHPPC's latest advice, agreeing to a move to level 1 restrictions. What these latest changes mean is described below, together with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) guidance, published on 1 May. It supports health service organisations to implement partial easing of restrictions on elective surgery, investigations and procedures.
The AHPPC agreed at its meeting on 7 May that 'moving dental practice to level 1 restrictions was appropriate in the current epidemiology and with the restoration of supply of surgical masks'.
This applies to all dental practitioners.
This means you can now move to level one restrictions.
However, you must check with your respective state or territory health department for directives that apply to dental practice, as these may vary in response to local prevalence or hot spots of COVID-19.
You must also still screen patients and assess the risk of transmission in your practice context and apply infection prevention and control precautions that address the level of risk of transmission.
The ACSQHC COVID-19: elective surgery and infection prevention and control precautions support health service organisations to implement partial easing of restrictions on elective surgery, investigations and procedures and standard and transmission-based infection prevention and control precautions.
This guidance does not change the AHPPC’s recommendations or state and territory restrictions made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ACSQHC’s guidance, which should be read in conjunction with the AHPPC advice, provides information on:
Please read the news item on false and misleading advertising in COVID-19. It reminds health practitioners that during these challenging times, it is vital that you only provide information about COVID-19 that is scientifically accurate and from authoritative sources, such as a state, territory or Commonwealth health department or the World Health Organization (WHO). According to these authoritative sources, there is currently no cure or evidence-based treatment or therapy which prevents infection by COVID-19 and work on a vaccine is underway.
Ahpra and the National Boards, together with the Australian Government and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum, have set national principles for clinical education to guide decisions of professions, accreditation authorities, education providers and health services about student clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic response.
Meanwhile, the Australian Dental Council (ADC), in collaboration with all Australian dental practitioner program providers, has released the COVID-19 dental practitioner program accreditation principles. The principles help guide how both groups will work together during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ADC principles are consistent with the National principles for clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic and are endorsed by the Board.
We are being asked a range of questions about how the Board would respond to requests for changes to the way we register individuals in the context of managing the health sector impacts of COVID-19.
As an overriding principle, we are prepared to be flexible in our approach, although safety remains our first priority. In this context, the Board and Ahpra are considering how our regulatory requirements can adapt to emergency health service needs and support health service delivery while continuing to protect the public.
For answers to many FAQs on matters such as registration, professional indemnity insurance, continuing professional development and other issues, see the Responding to COVID-19 portal.
You must continue to adhere to the Board's Guidelines for infection control and understand and adhere to the infection control obligations of dental practitioners.
You must also comply with the Australian guidelines for the prevention and control of infection in health care (2019) published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, especially about:
COVID-19 can pose an occupational risk in the dental setting. We remind you that work-related risk is managed under the work, health and safety legislation that applies in your state or territory.
Our profession has well-established behaviours and values which provide a framework for ethical decision-making in a wide range of situations. You should continue to apply such guidance as far as is practical, recognising these are unique and challenging circumstances.
Dr Murray Thomas
Chair, Dental Board of Australia