COVID-19 update for practitioners

Information about the COVID-19 is fluid and regularly updated. MIPS advises practitioners to check state and federal health department websites for regular updates and instructions for health practitioners.

If you are unsure how to handle a matter concerning the Coronavirus, you can contact MIPS for clinico-legal advice and support on 1800 061 113.

The Australian federal Government Department of Health and other peak bodies are posting updates concerning the virus online.

Managing the risk

See Resources for the Novel Coronavirus including resources 'For health professionals, including pathology providers and healthcare managers'. You can also obtain posters from RACGP to display in your practice: Patient Alert Infectious Diseases. 

State and territory updates and resources

FAQs about Coronavirus COVID-19

Last updated: 24 March 2020

These FAQs address practitioners’ legal obligations and some of the general issues we've observed practitioners face when dealing with COVID-19.

MIPS Membership benefits (including insurance covers) extend to technology based health services subject to the following guidelines:

  • You and the patient are located in Australia
  • Your practice is in accordance with AHPRA's and specialist colleges' requirements, guidelines and advice. See Telehealth FAQs
  • You hold current AHPRA healthcare practitioner registration
  • You have appropriate training, experience and qualifications for the healthcare activities undertaken by you
  • You have an appropriate MIPS membership classification for the healthcare activities undertaken by you

If you do not meet the guidelines in the question above or have a query about telehealth and the services you provide, complete an Practice Assessment Questionnaire for individual assessment.

Since 13 March 2020 practitioners can claim through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) when bulk billing for telehealth to treat vulnerable (eg aged over 70, pregnant, immune-compromised) and/or isolated patients for COVID-19. The item numbers can also be used by practitioners who are at risk (eg in isolation) of COVID-19 and are continuing to see patients via telehealth. Since 23 March the Government has made the further extension to allow practitioners who are considered vulnerable to use telehealth for all consultations with all their patients. Criteria apply. For up to date details see the MBS online.

Yes, practitioners other than GPs such as specialists, physicians, obstetricians and psychiatrists can use the numbers, see the permitted practitioners in the up to date details in the MBS online. The MBS items have been claimable since 13 March 2020. This applies where you yourself are at risk of COVID-19 and cannot provide healthcare in-person, when you are treating either patients diagnosed with COVID-19 or when you are treating patients at risk of COVID-19 (eg immune-compromised patients). Since 23 March the Government has made the further extension to allow practitioners who are considered vulnerable to use telehealth for all consultations with all their patients. Criteria apply. For up to date details see the MBS online.

There is a number of items that can be claimed including 10 relevant items that can be claimed by GPs. See the:

Practice and employee FAQs

Advice is changing almost daily. You should see the most recent update. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has recommendations for health and aged-care workers. You should not go to work if you have respiratory/influenza like illness. MIPS recommends you check current recommendations.

There are no AHPPC work restrictions on healthcare workers who are casual contacts of COVID-19 and are well, including those who have provided direct care for confirmed cases with adequate personal protective equipment. In this instance, healthcare workers are advised to self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if they become unwell until COVID-19 is excluded.

This a complex legal area and the answer may vary depending on any awards employees may fall under or their employment contact conditions. MIPS’ advice is the self-isolation in accordance with Department of Health advice should be considered sick-leave, however, if the employee is well then a work-from home arrangement can be put in place if viable. Compensation does not apply to contractors.

If you are forced to close your practice for valid reasons such as a COVID-19 infection/s, fire, flood, or breakdown of critical equipment, you can stand down employees who are unable to do useful work. You can only do this in certain circumstances. See Fairwork guidance. You do not need to pay an employee during a standdown. It may be better to consider offering employees the chance to take paid leave.

Patient FAQs

Yes, you can refuse to treat a patient, however, there are legal obligations if it is an emergency and refusal to assist could be considered misconduct or even negligence. The AHPRA code of conduct advises that a “patient should not be denied care, if reasonable steps can be taken to keep you and your staff safe.” It is MIPS advice that if a patient cannot be seen then they should at least be provided with advice as to how to seek alternative help

Doctors can choose to end a doctor-patient relationship and this is common where the patient is aggressive, has been forging certificates or consistently fails to follow medical advice. There is strong community and moral expectation that doctors continue to treat their patients. While you should take precautions MIPS recommends practitioners continue to practice and treat all patients unless you or your staff are in a vulnerable group and providing the treatment endangers you or your staff.

You must follow the standard fitness to work process in determining whether to issue a medical certificate. If the patient has returned a negative test, or is not exhibiting any symptoms and has appropriately self-isolated in accordance with Department of Health advice if necessary then a carefully worded certificate can be issued stating that the patient has told you this is the case.

This is entirely at your discretion, however it is only considered safe if you have access to necessary precautions (mask, gloves etc.). If you cannot adequately protect yourself or you know you are vulnerable, then MIPS recommends you refer the patient to a more appropriate environment where they can be examined safely.

If you have first hand knowledge of this, you should contact your state or territory Department of Health and document accordingly. Various State and Territory penalties are now in place for the offending individuals and companies.

Patients can’t demand that doctors undertake testing. This is a clinical decision based on the circumstances of each patient and the guidelines for testing at the time.

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The materials provided are for educational purposes only. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken in preparing these materials, including the accuracy of the information supplied, MIPS does not accept any liability whatsoever arising out of the use or reliance of the information provided. Contact MIPS 24/7 Clinico-Legal Support 1800 061 113 or education@mips.com.au for specific advice.