Keep up to date with what's happening in Victoria and what this means for your practice.
Here we have compiled the current information about COVID-19, restrictions and what they mean for your practice. We encourage ADAVB members to continue to check their inbox for ongoing member updates and advice. Recent updates were sent to members on 27, 24, 16, 13, 10, 7 and 3 September. This page was last updated 27 September 2020.
Easing of dental restrictions
The Premier has announced that from Monday 28 September dentists can recommence non-urgent services in metropolitan Melbourne with a COVIDSafe plan in place.
The Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed that this second step information is currently the only published advice for the dental profession. Therefore our advice, which aligns with today's announcements, is that dentists in metropolitan Melbourne can now move to ADA Level 1 dental restrictions. For further information please refer to our dental restrictions webpage.
Regulations state that an employer must not require a worker to work at more than one work site, but this doesn’t apply if it affects the ability of the businesses to operate. Employers should try and minimise the requirement to have staff work across multiple work sites by rostering staff to only one workplace if possible, ideally keeping groups of staff rostered on for the same shifts at each site and no overlap in shift changes. If a staff member works for two different employers, then the employee must provide a written declaration to each employer stating they are working across multiple sites, and the employer must keep a record of workers who work across multiple sites.
Regional Victoria: Level 1 dental restrictions recommended
As a result of significantly decreased cases, regional Victoria moved to the Third Step on the road map from 11.59pm 16 September. This means that healthcare services must operate according to ‘Restricted’ guidelines. These are guidelines for business operations, not dental specific restrictions. It is important for all dentists to download these restrictions to ensure that you understand and comply with them
The ADAVB recommends that regional Victoria (including the Shire of Mitchell) practice at Level 1 dental restrictions. Dentists in areas of isolated outbreaks, such as Colac, should exercise caution and consider practising at Level 2 restrictions until the outbreak has been managed. Practitioners in these locations should continue to monitor the number of cases in their local area and practice at a higher level of restrictions if they feel that is appropriate.
Following government directives and ADAVB recommendations
There are several risks that members expose themselves to by not following government directives or our recommendations to practice under restrictions where applicable. Risks include:
- You, a staff member or patient may contract COVID-19 in the workplace
- Occupational health and safety risks. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic), employers are required to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. Continuing to practice outside what is specified by the Government or recommended by us exposes employers to the potential for liability if one of their staff members contracts COVID-19 in the workplace. Potential professional indemnity exposure. Guild has advised that practitioners should comply with all published professional and/or government protocols and standards, and this would include the ADAVB dental practice recommendations.
The Dental Board of Australia has said that dental practitioners have a duty to make the care of patients or clients their first concern, and to practise safely and effectively, noting that the risk of transmission may increase due to an outbreak or hot spot of COVID-19.
We are aware of the impact that dental restrictions have on your business and the requirement to manage your staff. It is important that you understand your HR obligations before making any decisions regarding stand downs of staff during this period. Members can find advice for both employees and employers at www.ada.org.au/covid19.
Victorian funding for small businesses and sole traders
On 13 September the Victorian Government announced further support measures for small businesses, including a third round of the Business Support Fund offering between $10,000 - $20,000 to businesses impacted by restrictions depending on annual payroll. Applications are open until 23 November 2020 or until funds are exhausted, and we recommend that eligible practices apply early to avoid missing out.
The Sole Trader Support Fund offers $3000 to eligible non-employing sole traders impacted by restrictions. The fund is open from 25 September 2020.
If your practice meets the eligibility criteria for Victorian Government financial support and your application is not approved, please notify the ADAVB.
Every employer in Victoria is required to have a COVID Safe Plan in place for their workplace. The exception is businesses with fewer than five employees. Key messages for employers:
- Every employer must have a COVIDSafe Plan, including employers within the healthcare and social assistance sectors
- While workplaces are required to have a COVIDSafe Plan, it is not a requirement to use the COVIDSafe Plan template supplied by Business Victoria
- Workplaces do not have to lodge their COVID Safe Plan with the Victorian Government; however, you may be required to provide your COVID Safe Plan to DHHS or WorkSafe upon request or in the event of a confirmed positive case at your workplace
- The COVID Safe Plan template, guidance on how to prepare your COVID Safe Plan, and additional employer obligations for workplaces that remain open under the Stage 4 restrictions can be found here.
- The ADA also has a COVID Safe Plan (member only) available on its website, under Practice Policies.
From 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August, employees were required to carry a worker permit issued by their employer. This requirement was extended beyond 13 September – worker permits do not need to be reissued if future date ranges were included or dates can be added to the original permit. Employees must carry the worker permit and photo identification when travelling to and from work - the permit can be shown electronically on a mobile device. Fines will be issued to individuals and businesses for any breaches.
Download the permit template and complete one for every staff member who is required to work onsite. The template and more details on how to complete the form are available on the Department of Justice website. Dentists can also download a copy of their AHPRA registration from the Dental Board of Australia website to help identify them as a healthcare worker.
Healthcare worker infections
The Victorian Government has released a report on healthcare worker infections. To date 2799 healthcare workers have been infected, with more than 90 per cent of infections occurring in July and August. At least 69 per cent of all healthcare worker cases have been or were likely to have been workplace acquired, noting a number remain under investigation. This does not necessarily mean that it was acquired in the clinical setting from patients, with staff to staff transmission also a likely source.
During the second wave, 42 per cent of infections occurred in aged care settings, and 32 per cent were in hospitals, with nurses (41 per cent) and aged/disability care workers (41 per cent) having the highest number of infections. Dental practitioners were grouped in the 13 per cent of other healthcare workers who have contracted the virus.
If you or any member of your team has tested positive for COVID-19, please call our Community Relations team on 8825 4600 for a confidential discussion.
Employers must notify WorkSafe immediately on becoming aware that an employee, an independent contractor or a contractor's employee has received a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and has attended the workplace during the infectious period (14 days prior to the onset of symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis until the day on which they receive clearance from isolation from the Department of Health and Human Services). Self-employed persons are also required to directly inform WorkSafe immediately on receiving a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis if they have attended the workplace during the infectious period.
Failing to notify WorkSafe under section 38 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) can lead to fines of up to $39,652 for an individual or $198,264 for a body corporate. The new regulations came into force on 28 July 2020 and will remain in place for 12 months.
Information about notifying WorkSafe Victoria is available on its website.
WorkSafe email to dental practices
WorkSafe Victoria sent direct emails to various business sectors from mid-September to provide guidance on COVID-19 and this includes dental practices. They are reinforcing the importance of infection control, physical distancing, screening and employer obligations. WorkSafe have also indicated that they may conduct virtual workplace inspections, so it is important that workplaces have a COVIDSafe Plan that adequately addresses these issues.
Travel out of Melbourne
Travel outside of Melbourne is currently restricted. The ADAVB has confirmed that dentists and specialists who live in Melbourne but have their main practice or satellite practice outside of Melbourne are permitted to travel to that practice location for the purposes of delivering dental services.
Mandatory face coverings
It is mandatory for people in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria to wear face coverings when leaving their home, unless an exemption applies. Learn more here.
The requirement to wear a mask comes from a public health directive issued under the Public Health & Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic), and so is a legal directive. There is a $200 fine for people who fail to comply.
Dentists should enforce this requirement for patients in their dental practice, and can refuse entry to the practice for patients who are not wearing a face covering. This requirement should be communicated to patients when making or confirming appointments.
It is important that all staff in the dental practice wear a mask at all times. This includes staff at the reception desk. Patient-facing non-clinical staff should wear a Level 1 mask. Clinical staff should wear a minimum Level 2 mask at all times when interacting with patients including history taking, not just when providing treatment. Face-to-face communication with a patient is considered to be a risk for virus transmission.
Cloth/fabric reusable masks are acceptable for travel to and from work, or breaks outside of the dental practice, particularly to help preserve mask stock.
The only exception to wearing a mask would be when consuming food or drink.
A significant number of COVID-19 cases in Victoria have occurred in the workplace setting, so it is clear that close contact in the workplace, either between staff members or staff and patients, poses a risk.
Urgent dental treatment for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases or those in quarantine
Dental Health Services Victoria advises that urgent treatment for confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases should be managed in an acute hospital with an OMFS registrar. These include The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Austin Hospital, Dandenong Hospital, Monash Medical Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital, University Hospital Geelong – Barwon, Footscray Hospital – Western Health, and The Royal Children’s Hospital. Learn more here.
Most cases of COVID-19 continue to involve transmission in existing clusters, however community transmission from unknown sources remains a concern.
It is important to stress to all members of the dental team the fundamental measures to take outside of the dental practice to stay safe:
- Maintain physical distancing of at least 1.5m from others
- Practice good hygiene, including hand-washing and sanitising, particularly when shopping or in external environments
- Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette – cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue, throw it away and wash your hands
- If you are feeling unwell, get tested, stay home and avoid contact with others
- Take care wherever you go and assume that other people carry the virus
- Encourage your staff members to pass this advice on to their family and friends.
Dental practice setting
Any member of the dental team could contract COVID-19 and bring it into the dental practice while they are asymptomatic, and risk spreading it to other members of the team. To reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19:
- Ensure that team members always maintain adequate distancing, including when they wearing face masks
- Consider staggering meal breaks to minimise the number of staff in common areas
- Do not share drink bottles, glasses, crockery, or cutlery in the workplace, and ensure there is somewhere for staff to wash and dry their own items
- Review processes where members of the team may share or touch the same item in the practice, e.g. telephones, keyboards, photocopiers and EFTPOS machines
- Ensure that staff maintain good hand hygiene in these situations
- Provide a physical barrier between patients and reception staff
- Ensure that all practice staff wear a mask at all times, in line with the Victorian Government’s directive.
- Up-to-date information on activity restrictions is available on the Department of Health and Human Services website.
- Refer to the ADA’s COVID-19 web page for further information on COVID-19 guidelines for dental practices, and information about PPE and stock availability.
- 27, 24, 16, 13, 10, 7 and 3 September member updates (email)
- 16 September news
- Recent media coverage
- 11 September news
- ADAVB COVID business impact survey results March – August 2020 (member only)
- 31, 30, 28, 22 July member updates (email)
- 15 July news
- 12 July news
- 8 July news
- 2 July news
- ADAVB advocacy timeline (to 1 July 2020)
- ADAVB support summary (to 1 July 2020)