Recent Updates

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, any applicable restrictions and what they mean for your practice. We encourage ADAVB members to continue to check their inbox for ongoing member updates and advice. This page was last updated 8 January 2021.

8 January 2021 Update

The COVID-19 outbreak that originated in Sydney prior to Christmas has resulted in a small outbreak in Victoria, with border restrictions back in place. There is now concern about an outbreak of the new UK strain in Brisbane. ADAVB is continuing to monitor these outbreaks closely. Patients who have returned from NSW or Brisbane should be isolating according to guidance from DHHS. Some patients may have visited exposure sites in Victoria that could be a potential site for acquisition. Dentists should ask patients if they have visited any of these exposure sites as part of their screening process, and defer non-urgent treatment if a patient has been at one of these sites during the period of risk. The list of exposure sites can be found here - https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/case-locations-and-outbreaks

Dental restrictions

Our current advice is that all Victorian dentists can practice under ADA Level 1 dental restrictions. For further information, please refer to our dental restrictions web page.

Masks

Victorians must continue to carry a face mask with them at all times outside of the home (unless you have a lawful reason not to). Face masks remain mandatory on public transport, when in taxis or ride share vehicles and some other settings.

Face masks are no longer mandatory for patients in the waiting room of dental practices, or for staff in non-clinical areas. Masks are strongly recommended when unable to maintain 1.5m distance from others. It is important to consider the layout of your waiting room and reception area and other areas of the practice, and whether you have vulnerable patients or staff members to determine whether masks are still required.

Density requirements

Changes have been made to the density requirements for hospitality venues, retail and some other settings. For now, a density of one person per four square metres continues to apply to waiting rooms, reception areas, offices and staff common areas (but not to the dental operatory).

QR code service

The Victorian Government has introduced a free QR code service to assist with contact tracing. This may be useful to replace paper records for visitors to the practice other than patients with an appointment. More information on the service can be found at www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/qrcode.

Workforce bubbles

Employers 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. 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.

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.

COVIDSafe Plans

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
  • 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 and guidance on creating a COVID Safe workplace can be found here (not required to use the COVID Safe Plan template supplied by Business Victoria) 
  • The ADA also has a COVID Safe Plan (member only) available on its website, under Practice Policies.

WorkSafe notifications

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.

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.

COVID-19 transmission

COVID-19 is currently under control in Victoria; however, it is important to continue to follow COVID safe measures.

It is important to communicate 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 flexed elbow, and wash your hands after using a tissue
  • If you are feeling unwell, get tested, stay home and avoid contact with others
  • 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 where possible, including when they are wearing face masks
  • Consider staggering meal breaks to minimise the number of staff in common areas
  • Do not share drink bottles, and avoid sharing glasses, crockery or cutlery in the workplace unless they are cleaned in a dishwasher on a high heat setting. If there is no dishwasher, ensure that staff can 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, and minimise shared items where possible. Ensure that staff maintain good hand hygiene in these situations
  • Provide a physical barrier between patients and reception staff
  • Ask practice staff to wear a mask when they are unable to keep 1.5m distance from others, in line with the Victorian Government’s recommendation.

Healthcare worker infections

The Victorian Government publishes information and data on healthcare worker infections.

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.

Following government directives and ADAVB recommendations

There are several risks that members expose themselves to by not following government directives or recommendations, or our recommendations to practice under restrictions where applicable. Risks include:

  • You, a staff member or patient may contract COVID-19 in the workplace
  • You may not be meeting your occupational health and safety obligations. 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.

HR implications

We are aware of the impact that dental restrictions have had 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 the pandemic. Members can find advice for both employees and employers at www.ada.org.au/covid19.

Further information