COVID-19 Level 2 and 3 Guidelines for Occupational Therapists
With Auckland currently at COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country at Level 2, here are some guidelines to assist you to operate your occupational therapy practice safely and as efficiently as possible. (Our thanks go to the Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand for much of this information.)
You should still be keeping records of all face-to-face interactions with clients as well as displaying your QR code poster for the NZ COVID Tracer app (https://qrform.tracing.covid19.govt.nz/). You should also have a manual pen and paper register for those visitors who do not have access to the NZ COVID Tracer app.
Use of Masks
Masks are now strongly recommended for anyone where physical distancing is not possible. For anyone travelling by aircraft or public transport, masks are mandatory whilst in transit.
Guidelines for Occupational Therapists in Auckland:
If you practise in the Auckland supercity region (Auckland Council area), you are now at Alert Level 3.
This means that care should be deferred or provided via telehealth wherever possible. However, care may be provided face-to-face where:
- The situation and/or condition threatens the life of the individual and/or their whānau.
- The service is essential to maintain the basic necessities of life such as self-care, housing, access to food, communication and mobility.
- The service cannot be delivered by a provider currently operating such as A&E or urgent care/DHB services, or other health personnel already in contact with the patient.
- Permanent, significant disability or psychosocial disruption is likely to result if the person is not seen.
- You are the responsible clinician or main health practitioner working with the person or whānau and are best placed to ensure the above.
- You are competent, have the required equipment and are able to manage the infection control standards as detailed on the Ministry of Health website.
Guidelines for Occupational Therapists in the rest of NZ:
The rest of the country is now at Alert Level 2. This means you can continue to provide care if you can do so safely, following COVID-19 guidelines. The use of telehealth is still encouraged, where possible.
For all practitioners:
The OTBNZ level 3 and 4 decision tree may be utilised when making decisions about providing care to clients.
Screening of clients and others prior to face-to-face interaction should occur. Check that staff, clients or visitors do not have acute respiratory symptoms (cough, fever, sore throat or running nose), and within the 14 days before illness onset:
- have not had contact with anyone who has been overseas
- have not had close contact with anyone with confirmed (or probable) COVID-19
It is critical that you continue to encourage all patients presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to be tested.
Infection control and PPE
Follow good infection prevention control measures
- Practise good hand hygiene
- Practise cough/sneeze etiquette
- Practise physical distancing, including in waiting and other common areas (2 meters).
- Vigilant cleaning, particularly for high use surfaces such as door handles and handrails
PPE should be used in accordance with the Ministry of Health guidelines. Practitioners should be aware of how to use PPE safely, including donning, doffing and disposal.
The COVID-19 Health and Disability System Response Plan (p.12) states these populations are the priority for proactive response by the health system:
- Tangata whenua
- Pacific peoples in New Zealand
- Older people, especially those over 70 years
- People with long-term health conditions
- People with disabilities
- People with mental health conditions
- People living in residential facilities (e.g., aged residential care facilities, hostels, university accommodation or Department of Corrections facilities)
- Refugees and migrant community members
Keeping safe during the pandemic
Practitioners who have symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested and stay at home. Practitioners should also be aware of how to keep their whanau safe when working during the pandemic.
- The MoH Āwhina App may be downloaded free by Practitioners. The app provides access to the latest information about COVID-19 relevant to the Health and Disability sector.
- Ministry of Health COVID-19 information page provides information for Health providers.
- The COVID-19 website also has links to other relevant NZ information.
- Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā COVID-19 Advice for Māori including Health Practitioners.
- COVID-19 resources maintained by the Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand