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The latest information/updates from Australian and New Zealand Governments:

Indigenous Patient Care

How can I continue to give the best possible eye care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, particularly with the restrictions into remote communities around Australia?

  • RANZCO supports state and federal Chief Medical Officer advice regarding social distancing and enhanced hygiene precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, particularly in Indigenous communities who are especially vulnerable to the pandemic.
  • RANZCO advises Fellows to follow the directions of your respective states and territories with respect to access to remote Indigenous communities.
  • We emphasise the importance of adhering to these restrictions under all circumstances to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 
  • Please see RANZCO’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 response.

How can I help the broader system continue to offer essential health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients?

  • RANZCO supports the leadership taken by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and we refer you to NACCHO’s COVID-19 resource page for further information.
  • More information can be found on the AIDA website.

How is New Zealand continuing to provide essential eye health care to Māori and Pasifika patients under the current restrictions (Alert Level 2)?

On 1 May 2020, the RANZCO Māori and Pasifika Eye Health Committee released a position statement on the impacts of COVID-19 on Māori communities. RANZCO acknowledges our obligations as Te Tiriti o Waitangi partners and we are working towards improved outcomes for Māori eye health through genuine partnership with Māori and other key organisations.

  • We refer RANZCO fellows to the current NZ government advice regarding service provision under Alert Level 2.
  • RANZCO recognises that some Māori and Pasifika, in particular the elderly or those with pre-existing comorbidities, may be at risk for contracting COVID-19 and developing significant health complications secondary to the virus. 
  • RANZCO highlights the importance of supporting whānau during this time, in particular the elderly or those unable to care for themselves. 
  • RANZCO promotes education around COVID-19 and simple measures to reduce the risk of its spread, in particular hand hygiene, staying at home and avoiding large gatherings.
  • RANZCO will continue to engage with Māori and Pasifika as individuals, groups and organisations and seek to improve health outcomes. 
  • For general information RANZCO refers to the Ministry of Health website which provides the latest updates, information and advice on COVID-19 in New Zealand

What is RANZCO’s view on racism?

  • RANZCO condemns racism in any form and we recognise the adverse impact it has on health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in particular. In the current health emergency facing Australia and New Zealand, we call for culturally safe care across the health systems to ensure that all people get the health care they require. We stand by our colleagues at the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and the messages contained in their media release on this matter.


How can we ensure patients do not risk their eye health by neglecting important visits to their eye health providers?

RANZCO supports MDFA’s message to stop people going unnecessarily blind during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see Ita Buttrose’s message here:

Are there any opportunities for participating in international development projects?

Given the severe travel restrictions and risk posed by COVID-19, RANZCO has suspended its travel for international development projects until further notice.

Please note that RANZCO insurance will NOT cover anyone affected by COVID-19 while undertaking international development work.

Please visit the Australian DFAT and New Zealand MFAT websites for further info.

For more information on countries affected by COVID-19, latest updates and technical information, please visit the WHO website.

What are the temporary changes affecting locum tenens in Australia?

In order to provide greater flexibility to health professionals responding to the COVID-19 situation, the Department of Health will extend the locum tenens period from two weeks to twelve weeks. This extension is a temporary change to support the COVID-19 response, reducing the number of Medicare provider number applications and allowing faster processing of applications for health professionals who must have a Medicare provider number for each practice.

The Department of Health is also looking at what else can be done to minimise administrative burden relating to provider number issues, including possible extension of current 19AB placements and 3GA programs. Once confirmed, the Department will write to each medical practitioner with details of any extensions provided. Information will also be provided to peak bodies, colleges and through Services Australia.

What are the locum tenens?

The locum tenens are provisions in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) that allow eligible doctors and any other health professionals claiming Medicare benefits to use their existing provider number at a new practice if:

  • the period is less than two weeks; and
  • the health professional will be returning to the original practice.

Who does it apply to?

To be eligible under the locum tenens a doctor must be either:

  • an Australian trained doctor who has fellowship of an Australian medical college; or
  • an overseas trained doctor who holds fellowship of an Australian medical college and has completed their 10-year moratorium; or
  • a doctor working in a hospital with a Medicare provider number to refer patients to a specialist or request diagnostic imaging or pathology only.

All other health professionals including allied health, optometrists with an Undertaking and dentists are eligible for this change.

Who is not eligible?

Doctors who are not eligible under the locum tenens and must have a Medicare provider number for each practice include:

  • overseas trained doctors and foreign graduates of an accredited medical school subject to section 19AB, commonly known as the 10-year moratorium; and
  • doctors who do not hold fellowship of an Australian medical college participating in a workforce or training program (3GA program e.g. Approved Medical Deputising Service Program (AMDS) or Australian General Practice Training Program (AGPT)); and
  • doctors who participate in one of the Other Medical Practitioner Programs (OMPs e.g. the Rural Other Medical Practitioner Program (ROMPs), After Hours Other Medical Practitioner Program AHOMPs).

What has changed?

The Department of Health will extend the locum tenens period from two weeks to twelve weeks. This means a health professional will be able to provide services at a new practice for a period of twelve weeks without making an application for a Medicare provider number, reducing the administrative burden and allowing health professionals to focus on providing care to patients.

What hasn’t changed?

There has been no change to the health professionals eligible for the locum tenens.

Restricted doctors who need a section 19AB exemption or a 3GA placement must still make an application for a section 19AB exemption or a placement. Participants in the OMPs programs are granted access to a higher Medicare rebate at a specific location. These Medicare provider numbers cannot be used at another practice because each new location must be assessed to determine if it is eligible for higher rebates under one of the OMPs programs.

What happens after twelve weeks?

We are currently operating in a rapidly changing environment. The Department of Health is continually reviewing their policy settings to support the health workforce and the Australian community. They will provide updated advice over the coming months.

Last updated: May 19, 2020

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