As Chief Psychiatrist, I remain acutely aware of the incredible work being done across mental health services to provide safe services for consumers during the COVID pandemic.
Services have all developed their COVID-safe plans, but the experience in other jurisdictions highlights the pressure on healthcare systems that emerges when COVID-19 proliferates in the community.
The Chief Psychiatrist thanks all staff – clinical, non-clinical and service leaders, who will be called upon to extend themselves as COVID-19 inevitably places increasing pressure on our mental health services over the coming months.
The staff of the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist are committed to advising and supporting clinicians and services throughout this time.
Office of the Chief Psychiatrist Activities and COVID-19 Response
OCP COVID-19 FAQs for mental health services (Version 4, published 25/10/22)
COVID-19 Mental Health Directives and Guides
COVID-19 Mental Health Infection Control Directions
The Chief Health Officer revoked the Mental Health Infection Control Directions on 29th August 2022 (find revocation document here).
The Mental Health Infection Control Directions altered the way that assessments (section 48) and examinations (section 79) under the Mental Health Act 2014 were to be carried out when either the patient, or the clinician had COVID-19, had been in contact with COVID-19, had symptoms of COVID-19 or had been directed to isolate. In those circumstances, the assessment or examination had to be carried out using one or more of the following infection control measures: use of PPE, use of a physical barrier, physical distancing, or audiovisual equipment.
Therefore, when the Mental Health Infection Control Directions were in place, there were times when it was possible to use audiovisual means to carry out assessments or examinations, in the metro area, when the COVID-19 criteria were met.
Now that the Mental Health Infection Control Directions have been revoked, this is no longer the case.
Assessments (section 48) and examinations (section 79) under the Mental Health Act 2014 can therefore no longer be carried out using telehealth or other audiovisual means, in the metro area.
The arrangements outside the metro area are not affected.
The COVID-19 FAQs will be updated to reflect this change.
Clozapine monitoring during COVID-19
The Western Australian Therapeutic Advisory Group and Western Australian Psychotropic Drugs Committee have provided the following advice on Clozapine Monitoring during COVID-19, available at this link:
WATAG and PDC – Advice on Clozapine monitoring during COVID-19 (PDF) (WA Health)
Management of acute behavioural disturbance in COVID-19
This guideline addresses the safe care and management of consumers presenting with psychological distress and acute behavioural disturbance who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and asymptomatic people who fulfil the criteria for mandatory self-isolation.
Guideline: Management of acute behavioural disturbance in COVID-19 (version 3.1 published 02/05/22, WA Department of Health)
Telehealth guide for practitioners
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has released a Telehealth Guide for Practitioners which outlines their expectations of how registered health practitioners will use telehealth in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professional Practice Guideline: Telehealth in psychiatry (published November 2021, RANZCP)
AHPRA’s Telehealth Guide for Practitioners (published April 2020, AHPRA)
Resources on this website are the most recent currently available and updates will be added as available.
For further information, please consult the WA Department of Health website, or call the COVID-19 Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.
If you are a consumer or carer looking for information on mental health and COVID-19, please go to the ‘Think Mental Health‘ website. If you have a query about receiving treatment during the pandemic, please contact your care provider.
Dr Nathan Gibson