#365 Communications and advocacy update
13 October 2021
Here’s an update on a few of the issues AMA Victoria is working on for members, including:
- Booster/third doses of COVID vaccine for Group 1A high-risk workers
- Urgent measures required to support Victoria’s healthcare workers
- New feature in SafeScript - new correspondence alerts
- Proposal to remove Schedule 8 permit requirements for Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis
- Statewide Palliative Care Advice Service.
Booster vaccination/third doses of COVID vaccine for Group 1A high-risk workers, including healthcare workers
AMA Victoria has asked the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to substantially bring forward its timeline for considering and recommending a third/booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine for 1A high-risk workers, including healthcare workers, in Victoria. We have expressed to ATAGI, as well as the Federal and State Governments, that the current timetable will leave many healthcare workers in Victoria with potentially significantly waned immunity at a time when COVID-19 transmission in the community is predicted to rapidly increase. We argued that individual healthcare workers, the healthcare workforce as a whole, and patient care, would all be jeopardised if booster doses are not made available as a matter of urgency.
We proposed that booster doses be immediately offered to group 1A high-risk workers at the point when there is sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccine available for the current population (which should be in the coming weeks given increasing supply). We also requested that vaccine doses not used in the current rollout, that are about to expire, be offered to healthcare workers in preference to being discarded.
Urgent measures required to support Victoria’s healthcare workers
We have written to the Victorian Department of Health requesting that it urgently implement several measures to support Victoria’s healthcare workers in this time of crisis:
- Implementation of disaster management principles/expertise
We urged the Department to engage the services of Victorian disaster medicine experts to supplement clinician input around how to best manage these unprecedented circumstances.
- Leadership in relation to discussions around essential care
We pointed out the need to take note of lessons learned overseas in relation to burnout and moral injury in healthcare workers. We asked the Department to give health service management and clinical unit leaders permission to discuss with their staff what is now “essential”, and what will no longer be possible, rather than leaving individuals to take responsibility, make decisions, and bear the brunt of system overload.
- Additional support for staff and grieving families
We asked the Department to provide additional support (in the form of social workers, grief counsellors, and other resources (both on and offsite)) for families impacted by hospitalisation and ‘no visitor’ policies. We suggested that this support would help grieving and vulnerable families as well as protecting staff and allowing them to safely provide care to their patients. Leaving staff unsupported to deal with family grief, anger and fear leads to substantial stress and trauma.
- Recognition of the impact of repeated requests to work more shifts
AMA Victoria members have reported that the current workforce shortage is leading to constant, unrelenting requests for staff to work more and more shifts. We recommended that leadership is needed from health services and the Department in supporting staff to not work beyond their physical and mental capacity. We noted that it is not acceptable to leave the onus on individual staff to repeatedly turn down shifts, knowing the impact this will have on their colleagues.
Importantly, we highlighted to the Department that, in implementing these measures, care must be taken to not divert healthcare workers away from the acute healthcare system and that the Department and health services should support staff with the use of non-clinical resources.
New feature in SafeScript - new correspondence alerts
SafeScript has been recently being updated with a new feature, following feedback from prescribers.
Prescribers now will receive an email to their SafeScript registered email address each time they receive new correspondence in SafeScript. This means whenever prescribers are issued with a Schedule 8 permit or a letter requesting further information regarding a Schedule 8 permit application, the prescriber will receive an email alerting them of their new correspondence in SafeScript.
In line with privacy requirements, there are no patients details in the email and prescribers will need to be logged in to SafeScript to view the correspondence.
Prescribers can opt-out to not receive email notifications if they wish via their SafeScript account preference. They can opt back in at any time.
Proposal to remove Schedule 8 permit requirements for Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis
The Victorian Department of Health is proposing to remove Schedule 8 permit requirements for Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis for non-drug dependent patients, following a review of the permit system earlier this year.
The proposal is to remove the definition of Schedule 8 cannabis and Schedule 8 tetrahydrocannabinol as special Schedule 8 poisons in the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017 and thereby remove them from the special Schedule 8 permit requirements under Regulations 10, 11 and 12.
Now that SafeScript use is mandatory, the Department intends to reduce the regulatory burden on prescribers who prescribe Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis to non-drug dependent patients. Prescribers will need to continue to check SafeScript each time before prescribing Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis and apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for Special Access Scheme approval. There will be no changes to permit requirements for drug-dependent patients.
The Department is seeking AMA Victoria’s response to the following questions in relation to this proposed regulatory amendment:
- Whether we support the removal of Schedule 8 permits for treatment with Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis for non-drug dependent patients?
- Whether we consider this regulatory reduction may have any negative impact for patient outcomes or prescribers?
- Any other comments in relation to the proposed amendment?
Members are welcome and encouraged to share their views. If you would like to contribute towards our response, please email your feedback to Senior Policy Adviser, Lewis Horton, at LewisH@amavic.com.au by Monday 25 October.
Statewide Palliative Care Advice Service
The Palliative Care Advice Service is a State Government phone service that is run by the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
The service provides support, advice and guidance to those living with life-limiting illnesses and those who support them. For doctors and other clinicians, the service's palliative care physicians provide immediate advice on symptom management, prescribing and conversions.
Click here for more information.