COVID-19: medico-legal advice for doctors and practices

COVID-19: medico-legal advice for doctors and practices

Summary:

As the COVID-19 health emergency evolves and more information comes to hand, we will update this page with further medico-legal advice for members.

 

PracticesInterns/RMOsDoctors in trainingHospital employed doctorsGPsSpecialistAdverse eventsCommunicationDiagnosis & treatmentEmployment mattersLanding PagesManaging difficult patientsMedico-legal issuesProfessionalism & ethics
17 / 03 / 2020

Latest News

As Australia continues to manage the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, spoke recently about asymptomatic testing for COVID-19.

"We think that asymptomatic transmission … is a less likely pathway of transmission than if you do have symptoms,” he said. “So that's essentially why we really want to target with our Australian National Surveillance Plan - that we call it case-based testing - so, people who actually have symptoms, they're the ones that we want to go and get tested for COVID-19."

In an opinion piece, Deputy Chief Officer for Mental Health, Dr Ruth Vine also noted the Government had channelled an estimated $500 million into mental health services this year. This had assisted those needing support, most notably, through clinical services developing greater capacity to use telehealth and reaching out to those difficult to engage and bolstering assertive aftercare.

With advice changing rapidly, please check the Department of Health’s alert page. We have also included direct links to each state and territories’ health departments and updates in our resources section.

Updated: 10/06/2020

Sign up for email alerts

Frequently asked questions

Insurance Cover

Avant Practitioner Indemnity Insurance


  • A: You should only provide healthcare you are appropriately qualified and trained to do. Ahpra has provided the following information about medical practitioners being fast tracked into new roles in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.

    We are being asked a range of questions about how the National Boards would respond to requests for changes to the way that we register individuals in the context of managing the health sector impacts of COVID-19.

    As an overriding principle, the National Boards and Ahpra are prepared to be flexible in our approach although safety remains our first priority.

    In this context, we are considering how our regulatory requirements can adapt to emergency health service needs and support health service delivery while continuing to protect the public.

    Avant will continue to rely on and recognise the regulators’ assessments of appropriate qualification to act. To ensure you are covered you should only provide healthcare where you are qualified and maintain your insurance coverage.

    You should maintain coverage with us that is appropriate for your practice and, if you are considering changing your area of practice, please check if you existing category or practice includes the new work you are undertaking.

    If you are still unsure or need to change category, please contact us on 1800 128 268.


  • A: For patients treated in a public setting, your employer typically provides indemnity. We suggest you ensure that you are employer indemnified for any public work as this is not usually covered by your medical indemnity policy which is mainly for private practice. If you do not have cover from your employer for your public work, please contact us so that this cover can be arranged.


  • A: Generally, the treatment of a public patient is state indemnified. Currently there is not a clear position on how the state insurer indemnity will operate for public patients in a private facility. Avant wants you to be able to practice with confidence and can confirm your current policy will cover you for healthcare provided to all patients in private hospitals where you are not indemnified by the state, the hospital or another insurer, provided you declare your private billings for this work.

    Coverage is subject to the terms and conditions of the policy.


  • A: Medical indemnity insurance premiums are based on several factors. Your annualised billings is one of these factors. If these have changed significantly from what is noted in your current policy documents, we can amend them which could reduce your premium. Please call us on 1800 128 268 to discuss possible changes.


  • A: Yes. However, if you have stopped all practice of medicine, you may be eligible to change your category of practice to Absentee. This category continues to provide you with cover for claims against you that relate to your prior medical practice but does not provide cover for any current healthcare that you provide. The premium for Absentee cover is $200 for any period up to 12 months. You should only consider changing your policy to Absentee if you plan to stop all medical practice. You will need to notify us prior to returning to your practice to arrange appropriate cover.


  • A: Avant is offering a range of options on indemnity policy premiums, to members whose incomes have been impacted due to COVID-19. Each member will have their own unique circumstances and we are offering solutions that best meet individual needs, which can include:

    ✓ Premium adjustments for reduced billings for eligible members

    ✓ Transfer to an Absentee category for eligible members unable to practice with medical indemnity premiums waived until practice resumes

    ✓ A range of installment options, including monthly payment options

    For members or practices who are experiencing significant financial hardship and are not able to meet payments, Avant may be able to assist you.

    Please contact us on 1800 128 268 to discuss how we can support you.


  • A: Yes. Your practitioner policy covers you for this. However, it is important that you take precautions and follow all available advice to ensure that you can prevent transmission where possible. There is no cover under your policy if you know, or should have reasonably known or suspected, that you had the virus and then transmitted it to a patient. Therefore, if you are aware that you are infected, or suspect that you might be, it is important that you cease practising immediately and inform your hospital/local health service immediately.


  • A: The Medical Board of Australia and other National Boards are working with AHPRA to streamline the return to work process for practitioners who have been off the Register of practitioners, or who have held non-practising registration since 1 January 2017. Details of their current advice are available on the AHPRA website.

    In addition to registration you will also need medical indemnity insurance if you are practising privately. Avant will be able to arrange insurance cover for doctors returning to practice.

    Avant is pleased to support non-practising or retired doctors who may be considering returning to medical practice to assist with the crisis, by providing medical indemnity cover at no cost during the COVID-19 emergency period. To express your interest, please complete this application form and then email to applications@avant.org,au for more information.

    On 31 March 2020, regulations were passed to provide certainty for doctors who return to practice and currently hold run-off cover. Importantly, doctors will not need to arrange cover for prior practice and the regulations provide an exemption for doctors to maintain their cover through the Run-Off Cover Scheme while returning to practice for the period of the COVID-19 crisis.


  • A: Telehealth activities are covered under your practitioner policy. This includes consultations conducted via video conference and telephone, as well as SMS. You are covered anywhere in Australia.

    Where there is a pre-existing clinical relationship with your patient, you are covered for telehealth activities where you are outside of Australia (for less than 120 days) and the patient is in Australia, or where the patient is outside of Australia (for less than 90 days) and you are in Australia (please refer to the policy wording for all details).


  • A: Your policy covers you for up to $20 million for claims for compensation made against you under your practitioner policy. It also provides cover for legal fees and expenses for disciplinary matters, including Medical Board inquiries and investigations.


  • A: You are covered under your practitioner policy for defending complaints in relation to breaches of workplace health and safety laws, as well as any fines and penalties as a result.

Back to top

Trainee insurance and scope of practice


  • A: Yes. If you are an Avant member and a doctor in training, you are covered for the healthcare you provide in private practice where:

    • it forms part of your training program; or
    • it falls outside your training program, but it is consistent with your qualifications and experience.

    You are also covered for volunteer work that is consistent with your qualifications and experience.

    Cover is subject to the full terms, conditions and exclusions of the Avant practitioner policy.

    If you are employed by a hospital/or health service, you will generally be indemnified by your employer for the work that you do, including for compensation claims.

    However, not all employers cover the expenses for legal advice and representation for employment disputes, training disputes and coronial matters, amongst other things. It is important that you know whether you have the cover that you need through your employer. If you would like to find out more, please contact Avant Member Services on 1800 128 268.


  • A: Yes. Generally, you will be covered by your employer under your employment contract for treating patients in a private setting. However, if your employer does not provide you with this cover then your Avant practitioner policy will be able to provide this cover without you having to make any changes to your policy. If you need to update your category of practice e.g. if you move from a GP registrar to a hospital registrar, please contact us. Cover is subject to the full terms, conditions and exclusions of the Avant practitioner policy.


  • A: Yes. If you are an Avant member and a doctor in training, you are covered for the healthcare you provide in private practise where:

    • it forms part of your training program; or
    • it falls outside your training program, but it is consistent with your qualifications and experience.

    You are also covered for volunteer work that is consistent with your qualifications and experience. If you are employed by a hospital or health service, you will generally be indemnified by your employer for the work that you do, including for claims of compensation by patients. However, not all employers provide this cover so please contact Avant Member Services on 1800 128 268 to update your policy if required.

    If you are not working at all and you need to make update your policy to reflect this, please contact us to make this change. Cover is subject to the full terms, conditions and exclusions of the practitioner policy.


  • A: Yes. If you are an Avant member and a doctor in training, you are covered for the healthcare you provide under your practitioner policy where:

    • it forms part of your training program; or
    • it falls outside your training program, but it is consistent with your qualifications and experience.

    As long as the work is consistent with your training and qualifications you will have cover and you don’t need to update your policy. If you need to update your category of practice e.g. if you move from a GP registrar to a hospital registrar, please contact us. If you are employed by a hospital or health service, you will generally be indemnified by your employer for the work that you do, including for claims of compensation by patients. However, not all employers provide you with cover that you need. If you do not have cover through your employer and need to update your policy, please contact Avant Member Services on 1800 128 268.

Back to top

Avant Practice Medical Indemnity Policy


  • A: Yes. Your practice policy also has cover for telehealth activities.


  • A: Yes. Your practice policy provides cover for claims for compensation made against the practice which relate to the healthcare services you provide. Legal fees and expenses for disciplinary matters (e.g. tribunal or registration board) are also covered under your practice policy.

Back to top

Telehealth


  • A: New MBS telehealth items were progressively introduced from 13 March 2020, with some items coming into effect from different dates. The new items are listed on the Department of Health website, and can be used until 30 September 2020.

    It is a legislative requirement that the new telehealth services, where they are provided by GPs and Other Medical Practitioners (OMP), must be bulk-billed to:

    (a) a person who is a patient at risk of COVID-19 virus; or
    (b) a person who is a Commonwealth concession card holder; or
    (c) a person who is under the age of 16.

    A “patient at risk of COVID-19 virus” means a person who:

    (a) is required to self-isolate or self-quarantine in accordance with guidance issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in relation to COVID-19; or
    (b) is at least 70 years old; or
    (c) if the person identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent—is at least 50 years old; or
    (d) is pregnant; or
    (e) is the parent of a child aged under 12 months; or
    (f) is being treated for a chronic health condition; or
    (g) is immune compromised; or
    (h) meets the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection.

    The Department of Health has stated that health providers may apply their usual billing practices to the telehealth items for patients who do not fit the above criteria. Providers are expected to obtain informed financial consent from patients before providing the service; providing details regarding their fees, including any out-of-pocket costs.

    This requirement does not apply to specialists or allied health service providers.


  • A: There are separate billing codes for specialists, physicians, psychiatrists, paediatricians, geriatricians, public health physicians, neurosurgeons and anaesthetists. The requirements are:

    • you still need a referral from a GP (existing referrals remain valid)
    • the patient must be an out-patient.

    There are specific requirements depending on the item number used, so check each item number carefully and ensure your documentation supports your use of the particular item number.

    From 20 April 2020, specialists and allied health service providers are no longer required to bulk-bill these new telehealth items.


  • A: Yes. You can provide services to your patients by telehealth or telephone as long as you have the capacity to provide “… the full service through this means safely and in accordance with professional standards”, and you are satisfied that it is clinically appropriate to provide the service to the patient.


  • A: The advice from the Department of Health is that patients are still required to consent to their telehealth service being bulk-billed, as per normal practice for bulk-billed services.

    Where practicable, each individual provider should make efforts to obtain a patient’s signature in whichever way is appropriate to their needs. There are several options available to providers performing these services:

    • Provider to post the completed assignment of benefit form to the patient to obtain their signature and return.
    • Request assistance from a supporting practitioner (when there is one and possible).
    • Email agreement between the provider and patient.

    However, the Department of Health’s position is that, under these exceptional and temporary circumstances, for the new temporary MBS telehealth items only, the practitioner’s documentation in the clinical notes of the patient’s agreement to assign their benefit as full payment for the service, would be sufficient.

    This means that agreement can be obtained through one of three options being in writing, by email, or verbally through the technology with which the attendance is conducted.

    This agreement can be provided by a patient, or another person, such as the person’s carer or family member. The practitioner should keep their own record that the patient agreed or acknowledged that the service was provided, and that the Medicare benefit could be paid directly to the practitioner.

    The Department of Health has indicated that it may investigate potentially fraudulent claims by seeking to verify that the service was provided to a patient. However, the Department has stated that it is not intending to undertake compliance activity directly focused on whether the assignment of benefit process aligned with the usual requirements.

    The General, Specialist and Diagnostic (assignment of benefit) form (DB4) is available through Medicare Bulk-Bill Webclaims using HPOS.

    The Department of Health provides the following guidance for a patient to assign their right to a Medicare benefit to you by email.

    For privacy reasons, the Department of Health advises that you should not include the patient’s Medicare card number or the doctor’s provider number in your email to the patient.

    Step 1

    At the telehealth consultation, tell the patient you wish to bulk-bill Medicare for the service. To do this the patient will need to:

    • agree to the service being bulk-billed
    • check the details in the email sent to their nominated email address
    • reply to your email, which will be considered a signature agreeing to assign the benefit.

    Step 2

    Before submitting the claim, you need to send an email to the patient that includes all of the below:

    • the details of the service
    • item numbers or a description of the services
    • benefit amount for both the base and derived fee items
    • date and time of the services
    • patient's name (don’t include the Medicare card number)
    • practitioner's name (don’t include the provider number)

    Include in your email this statement:

    'If you (the patient) agree to the assignment of the Medicare benefit directly to the provider (bulk bill), reply to this email including the following words:

    Yes, I agree to the assignment of the Medicare benefit directly to the provider, and your (the patient's) name'

    and this privacy note:

    'Your personal information is protected by law, including the Privacy Act 1988, and is collected by the Australian Government Department of Human Services for the assessment and administration of payments and services. This information is required to process your application or claim. Your information may be used by the department or given to other parties where you have agreed to that, or where it is required or authorised by law (including for the purpose of research or conducting investigations). You can get more information about the way in which the department will manage your personal information, including its privacy policy.

    Step 3

    When you get a reply email from the patient with the required information:

    • complete a General, Specialist and Diagnostic (assignment of benefit) Voucher form (DB4)
    • for manually submitted claims write in the signature block ‘unable to sign, written email agreement provided’
    • for electronic claims, you don’t need to note the email signature, but you must keep the patient's email consent on file
    • submit the claim to us in accordance with the Health Insurance Act 1973, 1975 Health Insurance Regulations and MBS
    • send a completed copy of the General, Specialist and Diagnostic (assignment of benefit) Voucher form (DB4) to the patient
    • keep the email with the patient's consent and email signature, in hard copy or electronic form for audit purposes for at least two years.

    By noting 'email agreement' on the manual General, Specialist and Diagnostic (assignment of benefit) form (DB4), you acknowledge you’ve followed steps 1-3 above. This process complies with section 10 of the Electronic Transactions Act 1999, which outlines the steps to be taken for an electronic signature to be recognised. It also meets the legal requirement of needing a patient signature to assign a Medicare benefit.

    Example email

    Dear (patient),

    Details of the telehealth consultation to be claimed with Medicare:

    Item number: …. Benefit amount: $

    Date and time of consultation: ……2020 …. am

    Patient name: …

    Provider name: …

    Agreement

    If you (the patient) agree to the assignment of the Medicare benefit directly to the provider (bulk bill), reply to this email including the following wording:

    Yes, I agree to the assignment of the Medicare benefit directly to the provider your (the patient's) name or the name of parent or guardian (where a child is the patient and unable to sign).

    Regards,

    Dr …

    Privacy note:Your personal information is protected by law, including the Privacy Act 1988, and is collected by the Australian Government Department of Human Services for the assessment and administration of payments and services. This information is required to process your application or claim. Your information may be used by the department or given to other parties where you have agreed to that, or where it is required or authorised by law (including for the purpose of research or conducting investigations). You can get more information about the way in which the department will manage your personal information, including its privacy policy.


  • A: The Department of Health advises that you should use the provider number for your primary location.


  • A: Where the COVID-19 telehealth and telephone services are bulk-billed, no additional charge may be rendered for the service (regardless of how the charge is described).

    From 20 April 2020 the options available to GPs/other medical practitioners and specialists for charging COVID-19 telehealth and telephone services differ.

    GPs and other medical practitioners who render the temporary COVID-19 items must bulk bill certain patients:

    (a) a person who is a patient at risk of COVID-19 virus; or
    (b) a person who is a Commonwealth concession card holder; or
    (c) a person who is under the age of 16.

    In other cases, GPs and other medical practitioners are not required to bulk-bill the COVID-19 items and may render an additional charge subject to obtaining informed financial consent from the patient.

    Specialists and allied health service providers, from 20 April 2020, are no longer required to bulk bill these new telehealth items even when rendered to the patient groups listed above. Where the COVID-19 services are not bulk-billed, an additional charge may be rendered subject to obtaining informed financial consent from the patient. If you choose to do this, you should inform patients that other practices may bulk-bill the service under the COVID-19 telehealth items so they are aware of their options.


  • A: Yes. Bulk-billing incentive items can be claimed with face-to-face attendances or with the new COVID-19 telehealth and telephone services, where the conditions of the bulk-billing incentives are met. From 20 April, there are two new bulk-billing incentives introduced for vulnerable patients (items 10981 and 10982). These bulk-billing incentives will be equivalent to 10990 (metropolitan/urban) and 10991 (regional).

    Vulnerable means a patient at risk of COVID-19, so a person who:

    • is required to self-isolate or self-quarantine in accordance with guidance issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in relation to COVID-19; or
    • is at least 70 years old;
    • if the person identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent—is at least 50 years old; or
    • is pregnant; or
    • is the parent of a child aged under 12 months; or
    • is being treated for a chronic health condition; or
    • is immune compromised; or
    • meets the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection

    A chronic health condition is medical condition that has been present (or is likely to be present) for at least six months or is terminal. The Department of Health website provides additional detail about chronic conditions. The diagnosis of immune compromised is a clinical decision made by the patient’s treating doctor. Please note this is guidance only, and does not constitute MBS claiming advice.

    For clarification, the new bulk-billing incentives cannot be claimed in addition to existing bulk-billing incentive items. So, for example, if a medical service is provided to a patient who is both a holder of a Commonwealth concession card and falls under the definition of a vulnerable patient because they are 75 years old, only one relevant bulk-billing incentive may be claimed. Similarly, if a medical service is provided to a patient who is both under 16 years old and falls under the definition of a vulnerable patient because they are pregnant, only one relevant bulk-billing incentive may be claimed.


  • A: Yes.

    There are three ways you can bill your patients when using telehealth services:

    1. Bulk-billing.
    2. Private billing where the patient receives a Medicare rebate and pays an out of pocket amount.
    3. Private billing outside the Medicare system.

    For patients who are not entitled to be bulk-billed, you can bill patients in the usual way, but you need informed financial consent from your patients before providing the service. You should therefore provide your patients with:

    • Details of your fees, including any out-of-pocket costs.
    • Details of the amount of any Medicare rebate.

    Some practices are choosing to privately bill patients outside the Medicare system, who may otherwise be entitled to be bulk-billed under the MBS COVID-19 telehealth item numbers. A doctor and patient can agree that there will be no Medicare benefit for the service (and the doctor will issue a receipt which cannot be used by the patient to claim a Medicare benefit). If you choose to do this, you should inform patients that other practices may bulk-bill the service under the COVID-19 telehealth items so they are aware of their options.


  • A: GPs and specialists/physicians/consultant psychiatrists can provide service via telephone or video consultations if the criteria are satisfied. Telephone consultations should only be used where audio-visual (telehealth) consultation is unavailable.

    To claim ‘telehealth’ items, practitioners must have video conferencing. There are separate item numbers for video and telephone consultations.

    The Department of Health has advised that for the new temporary obstetric telephone services provided under items 91855, 91856, 91857 and 91858, these services must not be performed in cases where the practitioner and patient have the capacity to undertake an attendance by video conference.


  • A: There is no particular platform that you must use for telehealth.

    The Department of Health has confirmed that:

    • For Medicare purposes, no specific equipment is required to provide Medicare-compliant telehealth services.
    • Services can be provided through widely available video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo, GoToMeeting and others.
    • If video is not available, you can offer audio-only services. There are separate items available for audio-only/telephone services. The Department of Health has noted that this would not include online chat box/messaging and email as there is no visual or audio link.
    • Free versions of the video/audio applications (i.e. non-commercial versions) may not meet applicable laws for security and privacy.

    Under privacy legislation you are required to take reasonable steps to protect the privacy and security of the information that you hold. This means that you need to satisfy yourself that the platform you choose has adequate security measures to ensure that your patients’ health information is protected.

    The platform provider’s terms and conditions or specifications should include relevant information about privacy and security. Have a look for:

    • Compliance with Australian privacy laws and the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).
    • Security features such as multi-factor authentication and encryption. The Australian Cyber Security Centre advises that web conferencing solutions that exclusively support Transport Layer Security version 1.2 and 1.3 inherently offer more protection for data transmitted across the internet.
    • The ability to use password-protection and unique links/invitations to video conferences.
    • Details about the information the service provider collects and where it keeps that information. Is the service provider (or its servers) based in Australia?

    As well as commonly available platforms such as Skype, Zoom and FaceTime, there are several bespoke telehealth platforms, and many medical software companies are incorporating video conferencing within their practice software. There is further information about these platforms in the resources listed below. Your IT provider is also a good source of information.

    When you are using telehealth, consider your own privacy and the privacy of your staff. Use a practice account and be mindful that if you use your personal mobile phone or computer, patients may be able to access your personal number and email address. Also ensure that you have sufficient security in place for your practice systems to reduce the risk of a privacy breach or cyber security incident. For more information see our Cyber security resources.

    Resources

    The Australian Cyber Security Centre

    Web Conferencing Security
    COVID-19: Cyber Security Tips When Working From Home

    Hoxton MPM Telehealth Road Test: What platform is best for your practice? *
    PULSE+ITTechnology resources for COVID-19
    ACRRM eHealth and Technology Directory
    RACP Telehealth resources
    RACGP Telehealth
    RANZCP position statement on telehealth in psychiatry

    *Disclosure: Avant is affiliated with and has a shareholding in HMPM Pty Limited (Hoxton).


  • A: Some practices are already set up already for telehealth consultations with specialists. For those practices requiring guidance, the RACGP’s video consultation guidelines provide helpful information on getting started.

    You need to consider what you need to do if you are conducting the consultation from the practice or from home. Some of these things are:

    • How are you going to provide patients with the ability to contact you by phone or video conference?
    • Do you have remote access to your medical records system from home? If you don’t have access, you will need to keep records that can be scanned into the system, including billing information. You also need to be mindful of the limitations of the advice you can provide without immediate access to the patient’s medical records.
    • How will prescriptions and medications be provided to patients if they cannot visit the practice or pharmacy? Some of the options include getting consent for a family member to collect the prescription or sending them to a local pharmacy and arrange for delivery of the medications to the patients.
    • Do you have a printer at home if you need to send a letter?

    Telehealth and telephone consultations will be a new experience for many patients, so the RACGP recommends communicating with patients about the process and the benefits before they take part. A template patient brochure is available from the RACGP website.


  • A: It is a MBS requirement that you have the capacity to provide the full service through telehealth or telephone safely and in accordance with professional standards. The MBS telehealth item number descriptors also require general practitioners to undertake the following in each telehealth or telephone consultation:

    • take an appropriate patient history
    • arrange any necessary investigation
    • implement a management plan;
    • provide appropriate preventative healthcare;

    Always be aware of the limits of what you can achieve via the phone or video link if you are unable, for example, to check a patient’s blood pressure or temperature (and they cannot reliably do this remotely).

    You will need to consider whether a physical examination is necessary and have a plan in place for referral of the patient if you are in self-isolation. This may be to a colleague in your practice if they are available to see the patient, the local hospital if appropriate or to another practice in the area if your practice is closed or the doctors cannot see additional patients.

    The Good medical practice code of conduct applies to telehealth consultations as it does for face-to-face consultations. Doctors providing care via any form of technology are also required to follow the Medical Board’s Guidelines for Technology-Based Patient Consultations.

    What this means in practice is:

    • you need to be able to verify the identity of the patient
    • the usual principles apply for obtaining your patient’s informed consent and protecting their privacy
    • you need to keep appropriate records of the consultation
    • if providing prescriptions you need to have enough information about the patient’s past medical history and current medical conditions, and medications to satisfy yourself that the prescription is appropriate and not contra-indicated.

Back to top

Workplace and staff


  • A: As a healthcare worker, you should not attend work if:

    • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • You have returned from overseas or from interstate (in accordance with any public health directions in your state or territory)
    • You are defined as a close contact, or a confirmed, probable or suspect case (as outlined in the CDNA guidelines)
    • You have or have recently had, respiratory symptoms or any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 (in accordance with the CDNA guidelines).

    State and territory health departments are actively encouraging all employees not to attend work if they are sick in any way.

    You cannot attend work during any period of self-isolation, but you can work from home (if possible).

    You will need to follow local guidelines about when you can stop isolating and return to work if you are a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

    The CDNA guidelines contain detailed and up to date information relevant to self-isolation, returning to work, and managing both negative and positive diagnoses.

    Before returning to work after any period of isolation:

    • Ensure you read the CDNA guidelines carefully
    • seek the advice of your treating practitioner and/or your local public health unit
    • ensure you are up to date and comply with any guidance from your state or territory and/or local health organisation.

    You should comply with any state or territory public health direction about leaving isolation and about requirements after leaving isolation.


  • A: Testing guidelines are changing. To review the current national testing criteria, check the current version of the Communicable Disease Network Australia’s National Guidelines for Public Health Units and refer to your relevant state or territory guidance and public health unit advice. You can find links to advice from each state and territory health department in our resources section below.

    If you are unwell, you should consider seeking medical advice and undertake a COVID-19 test if recommended.

    In most cases, the Medical Board recommends against self-testing, unless advised to do so by your treating doctor or public health unit. The Medical Board’s Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia says that you should seek independent, objective advice when you need medical care, and being aware of the risks of self-diagnosis and self-treatment.

    While awaiting your COVID-19 test results, you should not work and should self-isolate. You will need to follow local guidelines about when you can stop isolating and return to work if you are a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.


  • We have set out the legal position below, but it is up to each practice to determine how best to manage the situations that arise with their staff. Many Australian employers are choosing to provide paid special leave to employees who are required to self-isolate.

    Any worker who can work from home during a self-isolation period should do so and should continue to be paid as usual.

    If a worker is not able to work from home (e.g., due to the nature of their role), the business will need to consider how to pay the worker, taking into account the legal position below.

    1. The employee is sick

    If the employee has contracted COVID-19 or is otherwise sick, the employee is entitled to paid sick leave. The employee can take other forms of paid leave if they run out of paid sick leave.

    2. The employee is required to self-isolate due to government requirements

    On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission varied the following awards to include an entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave if an employee is required to self-isolate: see the decision and reasons for decision:

    • Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010
    • Nurses Award 2010
    • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award 2010
    • Medical Practitioners Award 2020

    The new clause currently operates from 8 April 2020 to 30 June 2020. It says:

    X.2.1 Unpaid pandemic leave

    (a) Subject to clauses X.2.1(b), (c) and (d), any employee is entitled to take up to 2 weeks’ unpaid leave if the employee is required, by government or medical authorities or acting on the advice of a medical practitioner, to self-isolate and is consequently prevented from working, or is otherwise prevented from working by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    (b) The employee must give their employer notice of the taking of leave under clause X.2.1(a) and of the reason the employee requires the leave, as soon as practicable (which may be a time after the leave has started). 2

    (c) An employee who has given their employer notice of taking leave under clause X.2.1(a) must, if required by the employer, give the employer evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that the leave is taken for a reason given in clause X.2.1(a).

    (d) A period of leave under clause X.2.1(a) must start before 30 June 2020, but may end after that date.

    (e) Leave taken under clause X.2.1(a) does not affect any other paid or unpaid leave entitlement of the employee and counts as service for the purposes of entitlements under this Award and the National Employment Standards.

    NOTE: The employer and employee may agree that the employee may take more than 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave.

    Unions representing healthcare workers submitted that healthcare workers should be entitled to paid pandemic leave on each occasion they are required to self-isolate:

    • because they are at an increased risk of contracting or being exposed to COVID-19 and having to self-isolate; and
    • to encourage healthcare workers not to go to work if there is a risk they may have COVID-19.

    The Fair Work Commission will convene a conference with the relevant parties to discuss these submissions further. It is possible that the awards will be amended further following that conference.

    3. The employee is required to self-isolate by the employer

    Given the unique circumstances of COVID-19, a practice can require an employee to self-isolate if the practice is concerned that the employee may be a COVID-19 risk. However, the practice must pay the employee their usual wages for the relevant period without deduction from leave entitlements.


  • A: There are a range of options that an employer can consider if it does not have enough work to maintain the working hours of existing employees.

    1. Alternate work

    An employer should consider whether there is any useful work the employee can do. This might include doing their usual job in a different way (for example, working from home) or doing other duties which are within the scope of their employment. If so, the employer and employee can make an agreement about doing work in a different way.

    Employees who do other useful work should be paid as normal. If the employee is performing higher duties, the employee should be paid for those higher duties in accordance with award requirements.

    For more information, see Safe Work Australia's information on workplace health and safety requirements when working from home.

    2. Personal/carer’s leave

    Employees who are sick or need to take carer’s leave are entitled to paid personal/carer’s leave.

    3. Agreement to take paid or unpaid leave

    An employer cannot unilaterally require an employee to take paid or unpaid leave (except in the circumstances set out below).

    An employee and employer can reach agreement about taking leave. An employer must not act unreasonably or coerce employees into reaching agreement. Any agreement should be documented in writing.

    4. Direction to take annual leave

    An employer can direct an employee to take annual leave under the Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010 and the Nurses Award 2010. These awards allow an employer to direct an employee to take paid annual leave or annual leave in advance during any period when a medical practice is temporarily closed. The clauses say:

    Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010: 31.4 Close down periods—dental and medical practices

    Where an employer temporarily closes a dental or medical practice, an employee may be directed to take paid annual leave during part or all of this period provided such direction is reasonable. Where an employee does not have sufficient accrued annual leave for this period, they may be required to take annual leave in advance where such requirement is reasonable.

    Nurses Award 2010: Clause 31.9 Close down periods—medical practices

    Where an employer temporarily closes a medical practice, an employee may be directed to take paid annual leave during part or all of this period. Where an employee does not have sufficient accrued annual leave for this period, they may be required to take annual leave in advance.

    Both awards say that an employee may be required to take annual leave in advance. The awards do not require an employer to provide paid annual leave in advance.

    5. Other provisions about annual leave

    Set out below are other provisions of the awards that may assist. It is important to read each clause carefully and to comply with its requirements.

    Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010

    An employer and employee can agree in writing that an employee can take annual leave in advance – clause 31.3.

    An employer and employee can agree in writing that the employee’s annual leave will be cashed out – clause 31.5.

    An employer can direct an employee to take annual leave if the employee has more than 8 weeks’ annual leave – clauses 31.6, 31.7 and 31.8.

    For the period from 8 April 2020 to 30 June 2020, an employer and employee can agree that the employee will take twice as much annual leave at half pay.

    Nurses Award 2010

    An employer and employee can agree in writing that an employee can take annual leave in advance – clause 31.10.

    An employer and employee can agree in writing that the employee’s annual leave will be cashed out – clause 31.11.

    An employer can direct an employee to take annual leave if the employee has more than 10 weeks’ annual leave – clauses 31.2, 31.3 and 31.4.

    For the period from 8 April 2020 to 30 June 2020, an employer and employee can agree that the employee will take twice as much annual leave at half pay.

    6. Direction to take long service leave

    Long service leave is different in each state. In some states, an employer can direct an employee to take long service leave in certain circumstances.

    7. Agreement to reduce hours of work

    An employee and employer can agree to reduce the hours an employee works. Any agreement must be in writing.

    8. Direction about changes to rosters or hours of work

    The Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010 and the Nurses Award 2010 allow an employer to change an employee’s roster or ordinary hours of work following a consultation process. Appropriate notice of roster changes and hours of work must be given.

    Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010

    8A. Consultation about changes to rosters or hours of work

    8A.1 Clause 8A applies if an employer proposes to change the regular roster or ordinary hours of work of an employee, other than an employee whose working hours are irregular, sporadic or unpredictable.

    8A.2 The employer must consult with any employees affected by the proposed change and their representatives (if any).

    8A.3 For the purpose of the consultation, the employer must:

    (a) provide to the employees and representatives mentioned in clause 8A.2 information about the proposed change (for example, information about the nature of the change and when it is to begin); and

    (b) invite the employees to give their views about the impact of the proposed change on them (including any impact on their family or caring responsibilities) and also invite their representative (if any) to give their views about that impact.

    8A.4 The employer must consider any views given under clause 8A.3(b).

    8A.5 Clause 8A is to be read in conjunction with any other provisions of this award concerning the scheduling of work or the giving of notice.

    Nurses Award 2010

    8A. Consultation about changes to rosters or hours of work

    8A.1 Clause 8A applies if an employer proposes to change the regular roster or ordinary hours of work of an employee, other than an employee whose working hours are irregular, sporadic or unpredictable.

    8A.2 The employer must consult with any employees affected by the proposed change and their representatives (if any).

    8A.3 For the purpose of the consultation, the employer must:

    (a) provide to the employees and representatives mentioned in clause 8A.2 information about the proposed change (for example, information about the nature of the change and when it is to begin); and

    (b) invite the employees to give their views about the impact of the proposed change on them (including any impact on their family or caring responsibilities) and also invite their representative (if any) to give their views about that impact.

    8A.4 The employer must consider any views given under clause 8A.3(b).

    8A.5 Clause 8A is to be read in conjunction with any other provisions of this award concerning the scheduling of work or the giving of notice.

    9. Unpaid pandemic leave

    If an employee is required to self-isolate, the employee is entitled to two week’s unpaid pandemic leave in accordance with the Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010 and the Nurses Award 2010 (see above).

    10. Paid special leave

    Many Australian employers are providing paid special leave to their employees. This is something your practice may wish to consider.

    11. Stand down

    An employer can only stand an employee down if the employer has a right to do so under an enterprise agreement or legislation.

    Enterprise agreement

    If your practice has an enterprise agreement, you should consider whether there are any provisions in the agreement about stand down of employees.

    Legislation

    Section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) allows an employer to stand an employee down without pay if the employee cannot usefully be employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible.

    If an employer stands an employee down without pay in breach of section 524, the employer may later be required to repay any underpayment of wages.

    The Fair Work Ombudsman has provided the following guidance about standing down employees in the context of coronavirus:

    Employers cannot generally stand down employees simply because of a deterioration of business conditions or because an employee has coronavirus.

    Some examples of when employers may be able to stand down employees include:

    • if there was an enforceable government direction requiring the business to close (which means there is no work at all for the employees to do, even from another location)

    • if a large proportion of the workforce was required to self-quarantine with the result that the remaining employees/workforce cannot usefully be employed

    • if there was a stoppage of work due to lack of supply for which the employer could not be held responsible.

    This is not an exhaustive list.

    In summary, an employer cannot stand an employee down without pay simply because of a deterioration of business conditions.

    However, an employer can stand an employee down if an enforceable government direction means there is no work at all for employees to do (this may include for example, the government’s direction about cessation of non-urgent elective surgery).

    12. Redundancy

    View our answer to the FAQ: What steps do I have to follow to make an employee’s position redundant? for information on redundancy.


  • A: Based on current expert advice, masks are not required if reception staff are not likely to be in close contact with suspected or confirmed cases, and if measures such as social distancing, standard precautions including hand hygiene, screens and triaging protocols, are implemented.

    Work health and safety laws require medical practices to implement control measures to eliminate or minimise the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of their workers, patients and others at the workplace, so each situation needs to be assessed to ensure reception staff are kept safe and protected.

    If staff themselves feel unwell, they should stay at home, let their supervisor know and seek further medical advice.

    • Healthcare workers looking after patients in hospitals (Department of Health)
    • Healthcare workers looking after patients in non-inpatient settings (Department of Health)
    • The use of surgical masks in a variety of settings (Department of Health)
    Distribution of PPE through PHNs (Department of Health)
    • Healthcare general work health and safety information (Safe Work Australia)
    • COVID-19 workplace checklists (Safe Work Australia)


  • A: There are a number of practical steps that practices can adopt to minimise the risks of data/privacy breaches. These include:

    • Ensure that staff are aware that all practice policies (including privacy policies) apply when staff are working from home.

    • The practice should consider what additional requirements or adaptations are required for employees working from home. Practices should let all employees working from home know what the additional requirements or adaptations are (in writing).

    • The practice should prepare and distribute guidelines for safety and security when transporting laptops between the practice and home.

    • The practice should consider how staff members can gain access to practice software from home - VPN access may be required.

    • The practice should remind staff that confidential medical information should not be accessed by other people in the household.

    • For further guidance, see:

    • Patients should be made aware that staff are working from home and appropriate protocols are in place to ensure the privacy of patient information.

    • Privacy requirements apply to all personal information including information about staff pay, staff contact details, doctor earnings etc as well as to patient medical records.

    • Remind staff to check everything they do carefully. The computer systems will be slower at home and this can inadvertently lead to errors.


  • A: The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has stated that yes, you may inform staff that a colleague or visitor has or may have contracted COVID-19 but you should only use or disclose personal information that is reasonably necessary to prevent or manage COVID-19 in the workplace.

    For example, depending on the circumstances, it may not be necessary to reveal the name of an individual in order to prevent or manage COVID-19, or the disclosure of the name of the individual may be restricted to a limited number of people on a ‘need-to-know basis’. Whether disclosure is necessary should be informed by advice from the Department of Health.


  • A: It has become a widely spread practice to test a person’s temperature before allowing the person access to premises (for example, employees, patients and customers).

    You can only take a person’s temperature with their consent. If testing is used for screening for access to the practice, you should have a protocol about temperature testing which includes what will happen if a person’s temperature is above the required temperature or a person refuses to have their temperature taken. You should consider whether employees with a high temperature will be paid sick leave.

    The current advice is that temperature testing may be appropriate in high risk settings such as medical practices but may not be appropriate in other settings. For example, see advice from the Department of Health, Safe Work Australia and Safe Work NSW.

    In some states and territories, public health directions require temperature testing before entry into residential aged care facilities.

Back to top

Vulnerable or at-risk people


  • A: You can attend work. However, you and your employer should take steps to ensure your health and safety while at work.

    Advice about vulnerable healthcare workers

    The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee(AHPPC) has advised that the following people are at higher risk of serious illness if they are infected with COVID-19:

    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions.
    • People 65 years and older with ‘chronic medical conditions’.
    • People 70 years and older.
    • People of any age with compromised immune systems.

    Although there is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk in pregnant women, RANZCOG has recommended reducing the exposure of pregnant healthcare workers to confirmed or suspect cases. RANZCOG also urges employers to be sensitive to the fact that pregnant women are, appropriately, often anxious about their own health and protective of their unborn baby. Consideration should be given to reallocation to lower-risk duties, working from home or leave of absence.

    The AHPPC recommends that where vulnerable workers undertake essential work, a risk assessment must be undertaken. Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated with consideration of the characteristics of the worker, the workplace and the work. This includes ensuring vulnerable people are redeployed to non-customer based roles where possible. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and employees should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence.

    The AHPPC also recommends that special provisions apply to essential workers who are at higher risk of serious illness and, where the risk cannot be sufficiently mitigated, they should not work in a high-risk setting.

    Avant supports vulnerable doctors to seek changes to their work to minimise the risk of contracting or becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

    Practical steps you can take

    If you have a genuine concern that you are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or of suffering serious illness as a result of COVID-19, you should speak with your employer.

    Your employer may request information from your treating practitioner about the nature of your medical conditions and the risks of COVID-19 exposure. If so, you should provide the requested information.

    Your employer may agree that you are not required to attend work or may allocate you to another role which is less likely to have contact with suspect or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

    Many state and territory governments and healthcare organisations have implemented specific guidance for vulnerable healthcare workers. Make sure you stay up to date with your own local guidelines.


  • A: We have received calls from doctors who have been asked to write medical certificates for school students for a range of reasons, including that the student is a vulnerable person, the student lives with a vulnerable person or the student’s parents are concerned about the general risks of COVID-19.

    In Australia, schooling is compulsory for children who are 6 to 17 years old unless an exemption applies (for example, leaving school at 15 to undertake an apprenticeship) or the parent has a reasonable excuse for the child’s non-attendance (as determined by the school’s principal).

    A child’s parents have a legal obligation to ensure their child attends school and can be charged with an offence if the child does not.

    It is generally a reasonable excuse for a child not to attend school if the child is sick or has to attend a medical appointment. A school principal can require medical certification to be satisfied that a reasonable excuse exists.

    Australian schools have fully re-opened and school attendance is expected unless the child has a reasonable excuse.

    It is important to consider the current medical evidence before writing a medical certificate for a child.

    If you are asked to write a medical certificate, you will need to consider whether the child is unfit to attend school due to a medical condition or at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 or becoming very ill from COVID-19 as a result of their medical condition, or whether the child is likely to transmit COVID-19 to a vulnerable family member.

    For more information see NSW Health and Don’t Forget the Bubbles.

Back to top

Elective surgery and procedures


  • A: On 22 May 2020, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advised that, given the current situation and Australia’s response to COVID-19, it is now considered safe to increase the level of elective surgery activity in an incremental and cautious way, while maintaining necessary ICU capacity for any localised outbreaks of COVID-19.

    Decisions about what level of elective surgery can be performed will be made by individual hospitals based on relevant state or territory advice.

    Refer to your college’s guidance and hospital for further advice on what can be performed in your location.


  • A: Yes. Avant’s Practitioner Indemnity Insurance policy will cover you for the work you do as a healthcare professional within your category of practice and that you are appropriately trained and qualified to do, subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy.

    Coverage will not be refused where you exercise clinical judgment and your clinical decision to provide healthcare is determined to be inconsistent with the available advice in this fluid and uncertain environment. We recommend and trust that our members endeavor to follow the advice of government, their places of work, relevant professional bodies, colleges and societies, as well as peak decision-making bodies like the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

Back to top

Patient appointments


  • A: Yes. It is reasonable for the practice to have triage procedures in place to ensure appropriate precautions are taken to protect staff and other patients.

    For up-to-date information about clinical and epidemiological evidence of COVID-19, visit the Australian Federal Government’s Department of Health website and the current national guidelines for public health units.


  • A: Yes. You may place signs telling people to call the reception desk and/or tell reception staff the moment they come in if they have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or if they have any clinical or epidemiological evidence for COVID-19. Visit the RACGP’s website for patient alert posters.


  • A: Doctors are not legally obliged to treat patients unless it is an emergency or a contractual requirement.

    Discrimination laws prevent medical practice staff from discriminating against patients on the basis of disability/impairment (for example, COVID-19 or ethnic origin). However, you could refuse to see a patient if it is reasonably necessary to protect the health and safety of any person (including medical practice staff). In determining whether discrimination is “reasonably necessary,” you need to consider the up-to-date expert advice. View the Department of Health’s guidelines about managing patients with suspected COVID-19.

    Practices and hospitals have an obligation under work, health and safety laws to ensure the safety of staff and patients at the practice.

    In our view, it is reasonable to refuse to see patients with symptoms of COVID-19 if the practice cannot comply with the safety guidelines provided by the Department of Health and RACGP. View further information in our FAQs on PPE below.

Back to top

Patient testing and treatment


  • A: No. Without patient consent, a doctor cannot generally perform testing. If you are concerned about a patient who has refused testing, you should contact the public health unit for advice. There are powers under state and territory-based legislation to compel testing in certain circumstances.


  • A: Yes, PPE must be worn when treating any suspect case. The national guidelines explain what PPE is required.

    Specific guidance is available about using PPE in hospitals and non-inpatient settings.


  • A: Legally, yes. However, we acknowledge and appreciate the very difficult ethical dilemma this can create for doctors.

    A practice/hospital cannot lawfully direct a worker to treat patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 unless the recommended PPE is provided.

    This is because a practice/hospital and worker must ensure the workplace health and safety of the worker and other persons at the workplace as far as reasonably practicable by eliminating or minimising risks.

    In considering how to manage risk, all parties should have regard to expert advice (such as the national guidelines for PPE advice and guidance about using PPE in hospitals and non-inpatient settings.


  • A: The current Department of Health advice is that PPE is required when testing or treating confirmed or suspect cases. If you are not being provided with the recommended PPE for the type of work you are doing, you can ask your employer if you can wear your own PPE. PPE is a limited resource, so it is important for doctors to consider very carefully whether they need it in particular circumstances. This includes PPE sourced by doctors personally. Wearing PPE when it is not recommended may set a confusing precedent in the practice or hospital (for fellow healthcare workers and the public/patients) and may undermine attempts to conserve PPE for high risk encounters.


  • A: You will need to self-isolate if you had close contact with the patient and you were not wearing appropriate PPE at that time. For specific guidance about the management of any contact you may have had with a “confirmed”, “probable” or “suspect” COVID-19 case, you should review the Contact Management section in the current Communicable Disease Networks Australia’s National Guidelines for Public Health Units and contact your local public health unit for advice.

    We are aware that the states/territories, and local public health units and districts, are distributing their own guidelines on self-isolation and testing, so you should be aware of the advice at your local level. You can find links to advice from each state and territory health department in our resources section below.


  • A: The only type of ‘certification’ a doctor can provide is to the effect that, on the day of assessment, the patient was symptom free (this relies on a patient history and the patient being honest) and exhibited no clinical features indicating a viral infection or other symptoms that have been reported with COVID-19.

    As the understanding of the disease evolves the spectrum of reported symptoms linked with this disease is changing. Detail of the currently known spectrum can be found in the Communicable Disease Networks Australia’s National Guidelines for Public Health Units.

    For more information, read our article on medical clearance certificates.


  • A: Due to the public health importance of COVID-19, the new coronavirus strain (COVID-19) should be recorded on the medical cause of death certificate where the disease caused, or is assumed to have caused, or contributed to death.

    View the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ ‘Guidance for Certifying Deaths due to COVID-19.’

    • Record COVID-19 in Part I of the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. All conditions and symptoms should be included. For example, in cases when COVID-19 causes pneumonia and fatal respiratory distress, both pneumonia and respiratory distress should be included along with COVID-19 in Part I alongside the duration of each disease and symptom. Certifiers should include as much detail as possible based on their knowledge of the case, medical records, laboratory testing, etc.

    • Existing conditions, especially those which are chronic in nature, that may have also contributed to death should be certified in Part II of the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. Chronic conditions may include, but are not limited to: coronary artery disease, COPD, diabetes, cancer or disabilities.

    • The use of World Health Organization terminology COVID-19 or Coronavirus Disease 2019 should be certified on the death certificate. Terminology such as SARS-CoV-2 can be used, but it must be clear that it is the 2019 strain of disease. WHO terminology is preferred.

    • The term ‘coronavirus’ should not be used in place of COVID-19 or Coronavirus Disease 2019. This will introduce uncertainty for coding cause of death which may lead to under reporting in national statistics.

Back to top

Clinical education


  • A: Some student placements have been paused or cancelled as health service providers prepare for the pandemic. Depending on the severity of the pandemic, students may need to provide assistance to the workforce in response to the pandemic.

    The Australian Government, through the health and education portfolios, Ahpra, National Boards and accreditation authorities, are encouraging student placements to continue where it is safe and possible. To address this, they have set out national principles to guide the decisions of professions, accreditation authorities, education providers and health services about student clinical education during the pandemic response.

Training and redeployment


  • A: Many interns are at the coal face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may impact their training. In recognition of this, Ahpra (the Board) have made changes to the internship requirements, which will ease the pressure during this period.

    Rotation requirements waived

    On 3 April 2020, the Board announced they will waive the usual rotation requirements in general, surgery and emergency medicine for interns in 2020.

    To apply for general registration, the Board will accept the following supervised clinical experience:

    • at least 40 weeks full-time equivalent service (reduced by seven weeks to allow for isolation/sick leave etc.)
    • clinical experience in accredited and non-accredited positions.
    • any experience you have already gained in supervised rotations will be accepted.

    At the end of your internship

    Once you have completed your internship year, the Board will accept a report that you performed satisfactorily from the Director of Medical Services, Director of Training or another person who is authorised to sign off your intern reports.

    Substantial experience and time missed

    If the level of clinical experience or time you miss is substantial, and you are unable to meet the learning outcome requirements, you may need to complete more clinical experience once the pandemic is less acute.

    Employer responsibilities

    During this period, your employer must continue to supervise and provide you with as much meaningful educational clinical experiences as possible. They must also continue to teach and support you during this challenging and difficult time.


  • A: If your employer asks you to work in another role, you should speak with your Training Supervisor, or discuss with the training division of your college. It may be that you are able to fulfil some of your training requirements whilst in the alternative role.


  • A: As an employee, you are required to comply with the lawful and reasonable directions of your employer. If a direction is not lawful and reasonable, you are not required to comply with it.

    Lawful: A direction is lawful if you can comply with it without breaching any laws. This would include the laws regarding your registration and professional indemnity insurance.

    Reasonable: There is no single test to determine whether a direction is reasonable. The reasonableness of a direction will depend on a range of factors. In the case of a direction to work in a role outside your chosen specialty, you should consider issues such as:

    • Do you have the relevant (and current) skills and experience needed to work in the role?
    • Will appropriate supervision be provided?
    • Will you be able to ensure patient safety in the role?
    • Can you perform the role safely, particularly if you are a vulnerable healthcare worker?
    • Will the hospital provide the appropriate resources (including PPE) for you to work safely in the role?
    • Will the hospital provide the relevant training you need to be able to work in the role?
    • Will you be indemnified for your work in the role?

    If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, the requirement for you to work in the role may be unreasonable.

    If you are concerned about being redeployed to a new role, you should speak to your Training Supervisor in the first instance, or your training college. It is important to remember that in your new role, you will need to have supervision in areas that you cannot work independently, and access to senior advice as you would in your normal scope of practice.

Back to top

Supervision


  • A: The General Practice colleges have advised that GP registrars should expect to be provided with the same level of supervision and support as required under the relevant college’s training standards. Patient and registrar safety remain key.

    You should contact your relevant regional training organisation for more information on managing remote supervision.


  • A: Many interns are at the coal face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may impact their training. In recognition of this, the Medical Board of Australia (the Board), have made changes to the internship requirements, which will ease the pressure during this period.

    Rotation requirements waived

    On 3 April 2020, the Board announced it will waive the usual rotation requirements in general, surgery and emergency medicine for interns in 2020.

    To apply for general registration, the Board will accept the following supervised clinical experience:

    • at least 40 weeks full-time equivalent service (reduced by seven weeks to allow for isolation/sick leave etc.)
    • clinical experience in accredited and non-accredited positions.
    • any experience you have already gained in supervised rotations will be accepted.

    At the end of your internship

    Once you have completed your internship year, the Board will accept a report that you performed satisfactorily from the Director of Medical Services, Director of Training or another person who is authorised to sign off your intern reports.

    Substantial experience and time missed

    If the level of clinical experience or time you miss is substantial, and you are unable to meet the learning outcome requirements, you may need to complete more clinical experience once the pandemic is less acute.

    Employer responsibilities

    During this period, your employer must continue to supervise and provide you with as much meaningful educational clinical experiences as possible. They must also continue to teach and support you during this challenging and difficult time.

    For further support, view our key support services for doctors’ health and wellbeing and access expert advice via email: nca@avant.org.au or call our Medico-legal Advisory Service available after hours and weekends in emergencies.

Back to top

Support and resources

Financial support


  • A: Avant is offering a range of options on indemnity policy premiums, to members whose incomes have been impacted due to COVID-19. Each member will have their own unique circumstances and we are offering solutions that best meet individual needs, which can include:

    ✓ Premium adjustments for reduced billings for eligible members

    ✓ Transfer to an Absentee category for eligible members unable to practice with medical indemnity premiums waived until practice resumes

    ✓ A range of installment options, including monthly payment options

    For members or practices who are experiencing significant financial hardship and are not able to meet payments, Avant may be able to assist you.

    Please contact us on 1800 128 268 to discuss how we can support you.


  • A: Medical indemnity insurance premiums are based on several factors. Your annualised billings is one of these factors. If these have changed significantly from what is noted in your current policy documents, we can amend them which could reduce your premium. Please call us on 1800 128 268 to discuss possible changes.


  • A: Yes. However, if you have stopped all practice of medicine, you may be eligible to change your category of practice to Absentee. This category continues to provide you with cover for claims against you that relate to your prior medical practice but does not provide cover for any current healthcare that you provide. The premium for Absentee cover is $200 for any period up to 12 months. You should only consider changing your policy to Absentee if you plan to stop all medical practice. You will need to notify us prior to returning to your practice to arrange appropriate cover.

Back to top