Special Covid-19 Update: Covid-19 Protection Framework

The following is a special Covid-19 update from the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board (ODOB) 1 December 2021:

 

Tēnā koe

As you are aware, Aotearoa New Zealand moves to the Covid-19 Protection Framework (CPF), also known as the traffic lights system, on 3 December. The Covid-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021 (the Order) sets out the requirements for each traffic light setting.

Click here to read the Order.  

 
Click here to go to Government’s Covid-19 Protection Framework website.

 

The Optometrists and Dispensing Board (the Board) appreciates there may be some anxiety and concerns regarding the new framework. We have been in several discussions with the Ministry of Health and other healthcare responsible authorities to understand how this will impact Optometrist and Dispensing Opticians.
 

Today, the Ministry of Health provided further clarification and guidance and these are set out below. We also provide more guidance in the context for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, as we understand it at present.

 

General advice regarding allied health services under the traffic light system


The Order aims to manage the effects of COVID-19 and implements the traffic light system as the country transitions from the strategic goal of elimination, to minimisation and protection in its COVID-19 response. If there are any inconsistencies in this response, the Order itself remains to be the definitive source of information.
 

To ensure that health services can operate effectively, the Order provides an exemption from some restrictions for health services, which include allied health. The exemption provision is contained in clause 104 of the Order.
 

Exempt health services can continue to operate throughout the different traffic light settings, but are required to meet certain requirements as set out in the Order. Some of the key requirements are to:

 

  • display QR codes
  • maintain contact tracing records, and
  • use infection prevention control precautions as the primary mechanism to protect yourself and the people you see.

 

To ensure that every New Zealander can access essential health services, a more limited subset of health services is prohibited from requiring vaccination certificates or vaccination.


These health services would include any health service that is partly or wholly funded by certain government entities; and are subject to the rules of a “designated premises” under the Order. They may not:

 

  • deny access to premises or provision of goods and services on vaccination grounds, or
  • request people to provide a COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate, or other evidence of being vaccinated to access the health service.

 

Further details of these rules are provided in clauses 31-33 of the Order. Please note that these rules do not affect obligations to ensure workers covered by the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 are vaccinated to perform work.
 

The Ministry of Health provided a flowchart to help better understand these requirements. Click here to view flowchart.

 

The context for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians

 
If you provide services that is partly or wholly funded (including via subsidy or other means) by any of the following services, then you are defined as a “designated premises”:

 

  • Ministry of Health
  • OrangaTamariki – Ministry for Children
  • Ministry of Social Development
  • Department of Corrections
  • a district health board
  • Veterans Affairs New Zealand
  • the Accident Compensation Corporation.

 
We imagine that most practitioners will fall under this category.
 

As a registered health practitioner in a “designated premises”, you cannot deny access to premises or provision of goods and services on vaccination grounds.

 
What does this mean?

  • Even if you receive partial or whole public funding for only one patient, and the rest are all privately funded, you are defined as a “designated premises” and may not ask for a patient’s vaccine certificate or their status.
  • This includes the retail spaces within of your practice. The whole practice is therefore classified as a “designated premises” and may not ask a client for a vaccine certificate or their status.
  • If you are not defined as a “designated premises” for accessing health services, you can lawfully require COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates as an entry requirement to your practice.

 
As communicated previously, on 19 November 2021, the Ministry of Health released a position statement regarding the management of unvaccinated individuals in healthcare settings.
 
Click here to read this position statement on the Ministry of Health’s page on “COVID-19: Advice for all health professionals.”
 

The above information is applicable at all traffic light settings.
 

Clinical reasoning and risk assessment remain the fundamental principles for considering care, and practitioners must ensure the following processes remain in place at all traffic light settings:
 

  • screening for COVID-19 symptoms prior to face-to-face appointment
  • physical distancing measures based on 1 metre distancing
  • infection prevention control measures
  • appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where required. Mask wearing is mandatory
  • transmission precaution measures including consideration of ventilation
  • keep accurate documentation of appointments to aid contact tracing if required, and
  • ensure that your place of work is registered with the NZ COVID Tracer App and that the poster with the unique QR code is clearly displayed at the entrance to your premises.

 

In closing


We understand many of you may still have further questions. As mentioned above, the Board received this information this afternoon and is still working through the advice. We also expect more information sent out over the next coming days. As they are made known, we will communicate it promptly.  

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us

Nā māua noa, nā
Jayesh Chouhan, Board Chair and Elmarie Stander, Registrar
 

 

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