Responding to COVID-19: we’re here to help

A message from the Ombudsman and Commissioner

 

The office of the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner is available to support health practitioners and the community during COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on Australia’s health system. Registered health practitioners are on the frontlines working to keep our communities safe and provide essential treatment to those who are affected.

How we can help

We continue to assist with complaints about the regulation of Australia’s 16 registered health professions by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the National Boards.

Many health practitioners may have questions about measures introduced by Ahpra and the National Boards in response to COVID-19, including the launch of a pandemic sub-register to fast-track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners.

If health practitioners wish to raise a concern, my office will generally work with the individual and Ahpra to resolve the issue. This could include Ahpra:

  • answering an individual’s queries
  • providing an update on the progress of a matter
  • speeding up the processing of a delayed matter in exceptional circumstances.

 

The best way to contact us

We welcome calls to our complaint line on 1300 795 265 or emails to complaints@nhpopc.gov.au.

Our office is located in Melbourne and we are currently working remotely under Victoria’s COVID-19 stage four restrictions. My staff and I continue to strive for fair and positive change in the regulation of registered health practitioners for the Australian community while working from home. It may take longer than normal for us to respond to phone calls and emails. I thank you in advance for your patience and understanding during this challenging time.

Due to the current State of Disaster in Victoria, we are also experiencing postal delays. Please avoid sending information through the mail if possible.

Responding to COVID-19

I will continue to provide updates about my office’s response to COVID–19 on this page as we continue to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of our staff and community.

I would also like to acknowledge that the pandemic is likely causing significant stress for many in our community. The Department of Health’s website provides information about support that is available during this difficult time: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/ongoing-support-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

For more information about COVID-19, please also visit the Department of Health’s website: https://www.health.gov.au/.

 

Richelle McCausland

National Health Practitioner Ombudsman

National Health Practitioner Privacy Commissioner

Up to date information about COVID-19

For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s website at https://www.health.gov.au/.

For more information about Ahpra and the National Board’s response to COVID-19 visit: https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID-19.aspx

Support services

For more information about mental health and COVID-19 visit Head to Health at https://headtohealth.gov.au/covid-19-support/covid-19

Call Lifeline on 13 11 14

Call BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636

Call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

Frequently Asked Questions

Our office has been receiving enquiries about a broad range of issues related to COVID-19.

We are not best placed to answer questions that relate directly to health advice about COVID-19 and the restrictions that are currently in place.

We have instead provided recommendations below for alternative organisations to contact about frequently asked questions (FAQs).

  • What are the symptoms?
  • How does it spread?
  • How does testing work?
  • How do I seek medical attention?
  • How to protect myself and others?

We recommend visiting the Department of Health’s website for all information about COVID-19: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert.

The Department of Health also has a dedicated 24-hour hotline to ask any questions you may have about COVID-19. The hotline is monitored by registered nurses. Call 1800 020 080.

  • What are the current social distancing requirements?
  • What are ‘essential services’?
  • What do I do if an employee is affected by COVID-19?

We recommend visiting the Department of Health website in your state or territory for information about the COVID-19 response.

Click on your state and territory to access the relevant Department of Health’s COVID-19 specific webpage.

Australian Capital TerritoryNew South WalesNorthern TerritoryVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaTasmania

  • Does the 5G mobile network spread COVID-19?

Our office has received numerous enquiries about concerns that 5G mobile networks are related to the spread of COVID-19.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that 5G mobile networks do not spread COVID-19 because:

  • COVID-19 is a virus and viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks
  • COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy also released a statement about the safety of 5G technology in January 2020. Read the statement.

Our office is unable to further assist with enquiries related to 5G technology.

  • I’m a registered health practitioner, how can I get employed to help with the COVID-19 response?
  • I’m a registered health practitioner and I want to help. Can I volunteer?

We recommend visiting the website of the Health Department in your state or territory to find information about available opportunities to assist or to register interest in providing support.

Click on your state and territory to access the relevant Department of Health COVID-19 pages related to opportunities to assist:

Australian Capital TerritoryNew South WalesNorthern TerritoryVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaTasmania

  • I have not been provided with PPE. What do I do?

We encourage health practitioners to discuss their PPE requirements with their employer, primary health network (PHN) or their state or territory’s Health Department.

Click on your state and territory to access the relevant Department of Health’s COVID-19 specific webpage.

Australian Capital TerritoryNew South WalesNorthern TerritoryVictoriaQueensland / Western AustraliaSouth AustraliaTasmania

  • A health practitioner or service refused to see me and I think it was unfair. What can I do?
  • I want to make a complaint about how I was treated by a health practitioner or health service. How do I do that?

If you are not happy with the conduct of a health practitioner, or the standard of care you or someone else received, we recommend first speaking directly with the health practitioner or the health service provider about your concerns.

If this is not possible, or if you think that the response was not appropriate, we recommend contacting the health service complaints body where you live.

The details of the relevant health service complaints bodies for each state and territory are listed below.

Australian Capital Territory

ACT Human Rights Commission

Call: 02 6205 2222

Visit: https://hrc.act.gov.au/complaints/

New South Wales

Health Care Complaints Commission

Call 1800 043 159

Visit: https://www.hccc.nsw.gov.au/

Northern Territory

Health and Community Services Complaints Commission

Call: 1800 004 474

Visit: https://www.hcscc.nt.gov.au/

Queensland

Office of the Health Ombudsman

Call: 133 646

Visit: https://www.oho.qld.gov.au/

South Australia

Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner

Call 1800 232 007

Visit: https://www.hcscc.sa.gov.au/

Victoria

Health Complaints Commissioner

Call: 1300 582 113

Visit: https://hcc.vic.gov.au/about

Western Australia

Health and Disability Services Complaints Office

Call: 1800 813 583

Visit: https://www.hadsco.wa.gov.au/home/

You may also contact the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) if you are concerned that a particular practitioner is:

  • placing the public at risk
  • practising their profession in an unsafe way
    • not making safe judgements about their patients due to their health.

You can contact Ahpra by phone on 1300 419 495 or visit their website: www.ahpra.gov.au.

Information related to health practitioner registration and accreditation

Ahpra has provided information about the FAQs it has received related to health practitioner registration during COVID-19 on its website: https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID-19/COVID-19-queries.aspx.

We encourage health practitioners and community members who have a query or concern to first contact Ahpra directly. Concerns can be raised with Ahpra via email at AHPRAfeedback@ahpra.gov.au or via phone on 1300 419 495.

We are here to help if there is an ongoing problem that has not been resolved, if you are not satisfied with Ahpra’s response, or do not receive a response in a reasonable time. Visit our make a complaint page or contact us page to share your queries or concerns.

  • Why was the pandemic sub-register created?
  • When does the sub-register start?
  • How does the sub-register work?
  • Who is on the sub-register?
  • How do I get on the sub-register?
  • Do I have to work if I’m on the sub-register?
  • What do I need to do before I start work if I’m on the sub-register?
  • How do employers know if a practitioner is on the sub-register?
  • What do employers need to do before employing a practitioner on the sub-register?
  • What are the obligations of employers when employing a practitioner on the sub-register?

Ahpra and the National Boards have created a pandemic sub-register for the next 12 months to help fast-track the return of experienced and qualified health practitioners to the workforce in response to COVID-19.

Practitioners can choose to opt-out of the sub-register and there is no obligation to practise or remain on the sub-register.

Ahpra has published answers to FAQs from health practitioners and employers on its website: information for practitioners and information for employers.

Further queries or concerns

We encourage health practitioners to first contact Ahpra about concerns related to the sub-register. Concerns can be raised with Ahpra via email at AHPRAfeedback@ahpra.gov.au or via phone on 1300 419 495.

Health practitioners who are not happy with Ahpra’s response, or have not received a response within a reasonable time, are welcome to contact our office. Visit our contact us page or make a complaint page to find out more.

English Language Requirements

  • My English language test has been disrupted; how can I show proficiency to meet the English language standards to apply for registration?
  • I want to help with the COVID-19 response, but I am not registered because I do not meet the English language standards. Can these standards be waived?

Ahpra and the Boards are aware that people are being affected by changes to the availability of English language courses and tests.

The ‘Registration’ section of Ahpra’s COVID-19 FAQ webpage provides guidance about concerns regarding English language requirements: https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID-19/COVID-19-queries.aspx.

Further queries or concerns

We encourage health practitioners who have a query or concern related to English Language Requirements to first contact Ahpra directly. Concerns can be raised with Ahpra via email at AHPRAfeedback@ahpra.gov.au or via phone on 1300 419 495.

Health practitioners who are not happy with Ahpra’s response, or have not received a response within a reasonable time, are welcome to contact our office. Visit our contact us page or make a complaint page to find out more.

  • I need to renew my registration, but I do not believe I should be required to pay for it due to the current COVID-19 health response. What can I do?
  • I need to renew my registration, but I cannot pay the fee due to issues related to COVID-19. What can I do?

We are aware that registered nurses and midwives are required to renew or apply for registration now and that there has been a public conversation about reducing or waiving registration fees during the COVID-19 health response.

Ahpra and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia have made a payment plan available for nurses and midwives experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Applicants who meet the criteria will be eligible to pay half of their registration fees now and make a second payment by October 2020.

The ‘Registration’ section of Ahpra’s COVID-19 FAQ webpage provides further guidance about registration fees: https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID-19/COVID-19-queries.aspx.

Further queries or concerns

We encourage health practitioners who have a query or concern to first contact Ahpra directly. Concerns can be raised with Ahpra via email at AHPRAfeedback@ahpra.gov.au or via phone on 1300 419 495.

Health practitioners who are not happy with Ahpra’s response or have not received a response within a reasonable time, are welcome to contact our office. Visit our contact us page or make a complaint page to find out more.

To register concerns about the government’s health response to COVID-19 and registration fees, practitioners can:

  • contact their Federal Member of Parliament to raise their concerns directly with them
  • contact the Minister for Health
  • make a complaint to the Federal Department of Health
  • make a complaint to the Department of Health where the practitioner lives.
  • Do I still need to comply with conditions or undertakings on my registration during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We understand that practitioners are still required to comply with all aspects of registration restrictions. If your personal circumstances mean that you are unable to do so, please contact your case officer directly.

The ‘Compliance with conditions and undertakings’ section of Ahpra’s COVID-19 FAQ webpage provides guidance about complying with conditions or undertakings: https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID-19/COVID-19-queries.aspx.

Further queries or concerns

We encourage health practitioners who have a query or concern related to complying with conditions on their registration to first contact Ahpra directly. Concerns can be raised with Ahpra via email at AHPRAfeedback@ahpra.gov.au or via phone on 1300 419 495.

Health practitioners who are not happy with Ahpra’s response or have not received a response within a reasonable time, are welcome to contact our office. Visit our contact us page or make a complaint page to find out more.

  • Will the processing of my notification be delayed?

The NHPOPC is aware that at this time, Ahpra is not anticipating impacts on the notifications process.

The ‘Notifications’ section of Ahpra’s COVID-19 FAQ webpage provides further guidance about this issue: https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID-19/COVID-19-queries.aspx.

Further queries or concerns

We encourage notifiers who have a query or concern to first contact Ahpra directly. Concerns can be raised with Ahpra via email at AHPRAfeedback@ahpra.gov.au or via phone on 1300 419 495.

Notifiers who are not happy with Ahpra’s response or have not received a response within a reasonable time, are welcome to contact our office. Visit our contact us page or make a complaint page to find out more.