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Authority to show flexibility with CPD amid pandemic

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is prepared to be flexible with matters such as continuing professional development (CPD) for registered health practitioners in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesperson for the health regulator said it had fielded multiple inquiries about how the National Boards will respond to the effects of COVID-19 on health professionals.

“As an overriding principle, the National Boards and AHPRA are prepared to be flexible in their approach although safety remains our first priority,” a spokesperson said.

The regulatory body is considering how its regulatory requirements can adapt to emergency health service needs and support health service delivery while continuing to protect the public.

“Like many other organisations and individuals, we are planning for the different COVID-19 scenarios which may occur. Our responses will consider the extent to which our existing policies and arrangements should apply – to individual circumstances, for example – and how much modification is needed in this emergency situation,” a statement on AHPRA’s website explained.

To help eyecare professionals meet their CPD requirements, Optometry Australia announced it will be significantly increasing its webcast offering in coming months to ensure members access sufficient face-to-face CPD, despite the widespread cancellation of conferences and events.

It said the Australian Vision Convention, originally intended to take place on the Gold Coast, will now be offered as a virtual event, running over the weekend of 4-5 April, as planned. It will be offering a full program for a significantly reduced registration fee.

In Western Australia, WAVE 2020, due to take place 21-22 March, will instead provide a series of free 90-minute webcasts, featuring speakers who had been scheduled to speak at the event.

“Optometry Australia has put in place plans to ensure we can continue to provide important member support services even if our organisation is directly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak,” it said.

AHPRA has not provided specific detail about how the coronavirus crisis could affect the Optometry Board of Australia’s revised CPD registration standard which is set to start on 1 December 2020 and replace the existing standard.

In the US, the Association of Regulatory Boards in Optometry (ARBO) has also modified its guidelines on practitioner education.

According to an ARBO statement, previously scheduled live continuing education activities can continue if the courses are presented as online interactive distance learning.

This means that attendees must be able to have immediate live interaction with the course instructor, such as asking questions.

Meanwhile, RANZCO has cancelled clinical exams due to take place on 26-27 March at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and at the Sydney Eye Hospital on 6 June. It will advise of alternative dates in due course.

All “non-essential” RANZCO meetings have been cancelled until 14 April. This includes both the New South Wales and Victoria branch meetings.

Additionally, the WA branch meeting in Bali planned for 29-30 May has been postponed until November. The Australian and New Zealand Society of Retinal Specialists meeting in Melbourne between 23-24 May, New Zealand branch meeting in Christchurch between 8-9 May and the Tasmania branch meeting in Hobart between 12-14 June have also been cancelled.