Victorian COVID-19 Update: Expiry of regulations affects provider record keeping
What you need to know
- On July 12, the requirement for Victorian employers to keep records of their workers’ COVID-19 vaccinations expired.
- Those who collected the information under the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (COVID-19 Vaccination Information) regulations must securely destroy or remove it from their records by Friday 11 August.
- This does not apply to COVID-19 or other health records kept under other laws.
- We also run through the latest COVID-19 advice and best practice for the sector.
The Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Regulations 2022, which allowed employers to collect COVID-19 vaccination information on their workers, expired on 12 July. For many providers, this information must be securely destroyed or removed from their records by 11 August.
COVID-19 vaccination information includes whether a person has received any vaccination against the virus and the date of vaccination, or whether they are unable to receive a dose due to medical contraindication, acute medical illness or because they are under five years of age.
However, WorkSafe Victoria has made clear that the requirement to destroy COVID-19 vaccination information does not apply to employers that are permitted or required under other laws to collect or use vaccination information. A person's COVID-19 vaccination status is health information protected by other legislation (including the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic).
NDS have confirmed with WorkSafe Victoria that disability providers with a vaccination requirement for workers as part of their Occupational Health and Safety risk management strategy can retain a record that the worker has met the requirement.
But note, that worker vaccination compliance or exception for medical reasons does not need to involve retaining copies of their health information. Providers can nominate managers or HR staff to sight the evidence and only record expiry dates.
PPE and COVID-19 vaccination guidance
Health authorities still advise disability providers to be ready for a COVID-19 outbreak. Apply risk management strategies according to your setting’s level of risk. They also strongly urge getting the 2023 booster vaccination for all eligible people, especially anyone whose health is immune-compromised.
In February, the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care issued guidance for providers for the 2023 booster. A person aged 18 or older is eligible if it has been six months or more since their most recent COVID-19 booster or positive COVID-19 test. Children aged five to 17 are eligible under certain criteria.
Providers of disability accommodation should arrange vaccinations for residents through local general practitioners, pharmacies or other primary health providers. Note, too, that since February 2023, GPs and pharmacies can receive payment for delivering vaccinations off-site to disability accommodation.
Disability providers can also get residential in-reach services from Primary Health Networks (PHNs) across Australia. They will be contacting disability providers, giving priority to sites that have already received in-reach services for COVID-19 vaccinations. The PHNs will check disability provider vaccination plans for individuals and identify where in-reach services may be needed.
To support the uptake of COVID-19 booster vaccinations, a video resource from the federal Department of Health and Aged Care helps providers communicate with workers, families and people with disability. It features a discussion between Ricky Kremer from the Council for Intellectual Disability and Jo-Anne Hewett, CEO of Achieve Australia, about promoting COVID-19 vaccination for people with disability. It includes information to support people to make informed choices, including whether to have the vaccination at home or in a clinic.
COVID-19 risk management resources
There is plenty of useful guidance about COVID risk management for providers:
- Victorian Department of Health COVID 19 information and resources
- The Department of Health and Aged Care has guides in pdf and Word format to manage outbreaks of acute respiratory infection (including COVID-19 and influenza) in disability residential services.
- NDS’s COVID-19 Toolkit has an up-to-date range of resources for providers, including federal, state and territory weblinks for quick reference.