Te Poari o ngā Kaihaumanu Hinengaro o Aotearoa (the Board) acknowledges the mahi of psychotherapists. Psychotherapists have and continue to manage the challenges of the COVID-19 endemic while supporting the well-being of their clients.
Protection Framework (traffic light system)
Aotearoa New Zealand will move to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system) on the 3rd December 2021. The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021 (the Order) sets out the requirements for each traffic light setting.
The Order aims to prevent, and limit the risk of, the outbreak or spread of COVID-19, and implements the new traffic light system.
What is the Traffic lights system designed to do?
Red is designed to protect at-risk people and the health system from an unsustainable number of hospitalisations.
Orange is designed to reduce increasing community transmission that is putting pressure on the public health system and at-risk people.
Green is designed to minimise the cases of COVID-19 community transmission.
What does this mean for psychotherapists?
To support allied health professionals the Ministry of Health has released COVID-19 Protection Framework guidance along with a flowchart for determining how to operate, including the use of vaccine certificates.
Psychotherapists can operate under all levels of the traffic light system and 'are still required to meet certain requirements, including requirements to display QR codes, maintain contact tracing records. In addition to the requirements specified in the Order, infection prevention control precautions remain the primary mechanism to protect yourself and the people you see.'
Clinical reasoning and risk assessment remain the fundamental principles for considering care and whether a psychotherapist sees a client kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (with the appropriate processes in place) or remotely.
The following processes apply during all traffic lights i.e., Green, Orange, and Red:
- screening for COVID 19 symptoms prior to any kanohi-ki-te-kanohi appointment
- infection prevention and control measures including personal protective equipment (PPE) where required. Wear a mask if you cannot maintain physical distancing or other risk factors are present.
- transmission precaution measures including consideration of ventilation
- physical distancing measures
- keep accurate documentation of appointments to aid contact tracing if required
- ensure that your place of work is registered with the NZ COVID Tracer App and that the poster with the unique QR code is clearly displayed at the entrance to the premises.
Ministry of Health advise that screening questions and any other infection prevention and control measures must be based on the COVID-19 Case definition and its Higher Index of suspicion (HIS) criteria (symptoms).
'To ensure that New Zealanders can access essential health services, some health services are prohibited from requiring vaccination certificates or vaccination. These health services must not deny access to premises or provision of goods and services on vaccination grounds. The health services that are subject to this prohibition are health services that are partly or wholly funded by certain government entities. These health services are subject to the rules that apply to “designated premises” under the order.'
What does this mean? This means if a psychotherapist receives partial or whole public funding (for example from Accident Compensation Corporation) they are defined as a 'designated premises' and may not request a COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate or other evidence of being vaccinated.
Risk assessment will help psychotherapists decide whether they see the client kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (with the appropriate processes in place) or work remotely via telehealth. As a reminder, the Ministry of Health has released a position statement on the management of unvaccinated individuals in healthcare settings.
If a psychotherapist does not receive public funding, they may be able to require Vaccination Certificates as an entry requirement to their premises. Risk assessment will help a psychotherapist decide whether they see the client kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (with the appropriate processes in place) or work remotely via telehealth.
‘Restrictions to access to health care must be informed by a risk assessment, and the onus is upon the provider to justify that the risks are sufficiently high to support those restrictions.’ i.e., work remotely via telehealth.
Information that may assist the transition to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system).
For the most up to date information about My Vaccine Pass and the COVID-19 Protection Framework please visit the Unite against COVID-19 website.
For the latest Information on vaccines in the workplace please visit the Employment New Zealand website: Vaccines and the workplace
Use of Verifier App for businesses: The Ministry of Health has built a free verifier app called NZ Pass Verifier which is available on the App Store and Google Play, for companies to use to scan and verify a My Vaccine Pass.
The National Telehealth Service: The National Telehealth Service provides a COVID-19 clinical advice line for community health. This service offers clinical support and advice 8am – 8pm every day, including weekends and public holidays. COVID-19 Clinical Advice Line 0800 177 622
Ministry of Health resources on infection prevention control procedures, personal protective equipment and contact tracing for kanohi-ki-te-kanohi interactions with clients.
The Awhina App is available for practitioners to download.