COVID-19 information for healthcare providers

Temporary changes in service delivery to our clients during the current pandemic.

24 September 2020

The World Health Organization has announced that COVID-19 is a pandemic. As a result, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is currently engaged in a whole-of-government response to this global health issue. This response continues to evolve and DVA is prioritising resources to ensure we can continue to meet the essential care needs of all DVA clients, including vulnerable and at-risk clients.

On 18 September 2020, the Government announced the extension of temporary health measures to 31 March 2021.  All Australians can continue to access healthcare services, including allied health treatment, by telephone and video conferencing. Details of the extension can be found in the Prime Minister’s media release.

Until 31 March 2021, temporary MBS and DVA telehealth items have been made available to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers.

General practitioners (GPs), specialist medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, participating midwives and allied health providers are able to provide services via telephone and video conferencing capabilities. A service may only be provided by telehealth where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.

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General Practitioners

From 20 July 2020, GPs will be required to have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient in order to provide telehealth services under temporary COVID-19 arrangements. A relationship is defined as the GP, or another provider in the same practice, has provided at least one face-to-face service to the patient in the last 12 months.

Exemptions to this requirement will apply to:

  • infants under the age of 12 months;
  • people experiencing homelessness;
  • people living in a COVID-19 impacted area;
  • urgent after-hours services (in unsociable hours); and
  • services provided by a medical practitioner located at an Aboriginal Medical Service or an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service

This will ensure patients continue to receive quality, ongoing care from a GP who knows their medical history and needs. This change also responds to advice from medical experts, such as the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

For further information about these changes, please visit the MBS Online website.

Veterans Access Payment (VAP) for general practitioners

The VAP is payable with the new general practitioner telehealth items, however, the system has not automatically been making these payments.

DVA has now established two new VAP items MT88 (claimed instead of 10991) and MT89 (claimed instead of 10990). These items can be claimed retrospectively for telephone and video conferencing services provided by general practitioners to DVA clients from 13 March 2020. However, these new items may not automatically be picked up by practice management software in the immediate term, therefore providers will need to separately and manually claim these VAP items for telehealth consultations.

In line with MBS arrangements, the DVA VAP fee will return to its usual rate for both face-to-face and telehealth services effective 1 October 2020.

DVA’s Fee Schedules for Medical Providers and software vendor file have been updated to reflect these arrangements.

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Medical specialist, nursing, and pathology professionals

The DVA Fee Schedules for Medical Services has been updated to mirror the temporary MBS telehealth arrangements. Further details on the new items, including patient and provider eligibility, can be found on the MBS Online website. Any queries related to the interpretation of these new MBS items should be directed to askMBS [at] health.gov.au

The DVA fee schedules and medical software vendor file are located on the DVA website.

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Allied health professionals

Allied health services (except dental, optical and neuropsychology services) can be delivered to DVA clients by telehealth. DVA has updated the fee schedules for allied health providers which have been published on the fee schedules page. Mental health allied health providers have been able to claim for telehealth services since 13 March, but from 1 April 2020, this has been expanded to include all eligible allied health professions.

Treatment cycle arrangements continue to apply for DVA clients seeking to access allied health services through telephone and video conferencing. Where required, clients may also access a GP referral for clinically required allied health treatment via a telehealth consultation.

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Support services and resources for your veteran patients

Mental health support

Access to prescriptions and pharmaceuticals

  • Vulnerable people, including eligible veterans, can order their Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) prescriptions remotely, and have their medicines home-delivered, once a month, to reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • You can visit the Department of Health website for information on e-prescribing and home medicine services, or contact your local pharmacy.

Shopping services for eligible veterans

  • Older and at-risk veterans may access shopping support provided by Veterans’ Home Care (VHC). Veterans can call the VHC Assessment Agency directly on 1300 550 450. A doctor’s referral is not required to access these services.

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Further information

Please note: This webpage will continue to be updated regularly as new arrangements come into place. We thank you for your vigilance at this time, and your ongoing support for veterans and their families.

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