As health services prepare for the expected surge in demand resulting from COVID-19, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and National Boards have announced a new pandemic sub-register to fast track the return to the workforce of experienced and qualified health practitioners.
Following the request from Australia’s Health Ministers to enable more health practitioners to quickly return to practice, AHPRA, the Medical Board of Australia, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and the Pharmacy Board of Australia will establish a short-term pandemic response sub-register for the next 12 months.
This sub-register will enable doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists who previously held general or specialist registration and left the Register of practitioners or moved to non-practising registration in the past three years to return to practice. Only those who are properly qualified, competent and suitable will be returned to the register.
AHPRA will be contacting over 40,000 practitioners who meet these criteria to alert them that they will be added to this new sub-register.
Martin Fletcher, CEO of AHPRA said that the measure aims to get more practitioners into the health system quickly and safely.
“We want more of our critical health practitioners available to work as part of the health system in responding to the pandemic. Patient safety remains an important focus and registered practitioners who were subject to regulatory action in the past three years will not be re-registered,” he said.
“Employers and health departments will also play an important role by undertaking employment and probity checks and providing any induction and training which may be needed,” he added.
The temporary sub-register will operate on an opt-out basis with practitioners added to the pandemic sub-register automatically. They will not need to fill in forms or pay fees, nor meet the usual return to practice requirements.
There is no obligation for anyone added to the sub-register to practise or remain on it. They can opt out at any time, for any reason.
Practitioners who choose to stay on the pandemic sub-register and go back to work, will need to comply with their profession’s code of conduct, professional indemnity insurance requirements and work within the scope of their practice. After 12 months (or sooner if the pandemic subsides), they will be removed from the sub-register. If they wish to continue practising after the emergency, they will be able to apply for ongoing registration through the standard process.
AHPRA is moving fast to get this pandemic sub-register set up as soon as possible. It is expected to be in place from April 6.
Other health practitioners including physiotherapists and radiographers will be added to the sub-register in the near future.
For more information visit the COVID-19 information page: https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID- 19.aspx