The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), with advice from the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) and the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG), has endorsed a Worker Permissions and Restrictions Framework for Workers in Health Care Settings.
The framework outlines nationally agreed recommendations that will support safe decision making when determining appropriate workplace restrictions and permissions for a worker exposed to COVID-19.
Health care settings are more likely to encounter people with COVID-19 and thus have higher rates of potential exposure for workers.
Previous requirements to furlough workers in health care settings following exposure to COVID-19 could result in significant impacts on health system capacity and place a significant strain on the delivery of health services.
As Australia moves into Phase B and C of the National Plan to Transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response, the workforce impacts resulting from the previous guidance would be exacerbated.
It is timely to update this guidance as increasing rates of workers in health care settings are now fully vaccinated.
The framework recognises that workers in health care settings who are vaccinated for COVID-19 are less likely to acquire infection and, if infected, are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.
The framework has been designed to reflect this changed risk profile.
The framework will support health care settings to undertake timely risk assessments and apply appropriate mitigation measures to optimise workforce capacity and thereby ensure the continued safe delivery of health care.
This ensures healthcare staff are able to safely work when required, to ensure ongoing access to health care services.
The framework includes workers in public and private health settings, private provider facilities - such as general practitioners, and education settings in which students are managed to undertake placement, registration and internships in clinical settings.
The framework acknowledges that decision making should be informed by the local epidemiological and public health situation, and that states and territories may implement additional requirements above these minimum national recommendations.
A nationally consistent approach to the furlough of workers in health care settings is vital as we move through the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response.
This framework is publicly available in the CDNA COVID-19 Series of National Guidelines for Public Health Units (SoNG) and replaces previous advice.
For more information please visit the Department of Health’s CDNA National guidelines for public health units.