Webinar with Australian Deputy CMO, Dr Nick Coatsworth
We are pleased to announce that Dr Nick Coatsworth has kindly agreed to join us for a webinar next week on Tuesday. We have asked the presidents of the nine specialty societies to send in questions. Participants will have the opportunity to ask COVID-19 related questions during the webinar.
 
Details of the webinar are below.
 
Date: Tuesday, 21 April 2020
Time: 4- 5pm AEST
Webinar link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5985419550930269453
 
Register now.

More webinars coming soon
We will soon start a series of webinars focusing on trainees, International Medical Graduates, trainers and other topical subjects. We will communicate the dates as soon as possible.

Suspension of elective surgery 
The suspension of non-deferrable elective surgery has been in place in public and private hospitals in both countries now for at least two weeks. This has given valuable time to retain hospital staff who may need to be deployed, freed up beds and significantly increased the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). RACS strongly advocated that the federal and state governments support the private hospitals and in most jurisdictions this has occurred.

The suspension has had a serious implication for many surgeons’ livelihood and delayed surgery for many patients who are suffering and upset by the uncertainty of when they may eventually have their surgery.

At present we are in the evaluation phase of determining exactly where we are in terms of capacity of beds, PPE and trained staff and reviewing the evidence now available about correct need and use of PPE.

The next phase will be to develop a planned commencement of more elective surgery which will probably vary between different areas based on the availability of equipment and local factors.

A meeting will occur with the presidents of our associations and the deputy chief medical officer to discuss the next phase.

We are also looking at the New Zealand situation and appropriate communication with specialty societies in New Zealand.
 
We thank all surgeons for their understanding and support in this sensitive issue.

Subscriptions and fees
Most people have paid up this year’s fees, but we are cognisant that as the pandemic continues there may be situations where flexibility is appropriate. If you believe that you will suffer prolonged significant financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, you may write to the Treasurer (College.Treasurer@surgeons.org) for your individual case to be considered. The Fellow subscriptions policy will be taken as a guide in this matter.

College activities including education, training and advocacy continue as we look at new ways to deliver examinations and courses.

Craft Group Specific Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines during COVID-19
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy has requested that prior to publication of any further craft group specific guidance on Infection Prevention Control during COVID-19 that you seek input and endorsement of your guidelines through this group via ICEG.Secretariat@health.gov.au. Read more.

Additional guidelines
Our Research, Audit and Academic Surgery team under the direction of ASERNIP-S is reviewing the evidence to provide guidelines on safe surgery; open vs laparoscopic; updating the surgery triaging system and guidelines for PPE to protect surgical teams in the context of the current  COVID-19 pandemic We will share these reports as soon as they are available. 

Response to feedback for Stage 5 telehealth expansion
We will continue to advocate in the area of telehealth expansion with the Australian Federal Department of Health. We will request a review specifically in the context of rural and regional access to services for patients.

Our first submission advocated for improved access to specialist services for all patients on MBS by removing requirements on in-patient admission and geographical distance. We highlighted the importance of sustaining a viable surgical private practice by allowing specialists to privately bill. This would allow specialists the flexibility to exercise their usual billing practice while also providing care to vulnerable patients through bulkbilling. The Department of Health advised that services currently provided in-hospital or to patients admitted under the treating specialist are not being considered for telehealth expansion at this time.  

Useful links