ASMOF: Supporting you during COVID-19
Given the current situation is changing so quickly, with sometimes differing messages coming out of the various levels of government, staying abreast of the latest information can be difficult. Below is a handy list of frequently asked questions that we hope will assist ASMOF members to navigate through these uncertain times.
Of course, if you have any queries or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact ASMOF by phoning 9212 6900 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a form at the bottom of this page that allows you to ask ASMOF a question directly. ASMOF - the Doctors’ Union - is in regular contact with the NSW Government, NSW Health and other unions to ensure our members are kept across the latest information.
We are doing everything we can to ensure they’re putting your health and safety – and that of the people of NSW – first. Thanks for everything you’re doing during this difficult period. There’s no doubt that for many of us, the coming weeks and months will be the most challenging of our careers. We can’t promise it won’t be tough, but we can promise that ASMOF will be here for you, to advocate for your health and safety, and to address any concerns you have.ASMOF will keep you updated through our usual channels as things progress. Stay tuned to our full website for updates.
Frequently asked questions
> Q. What is the latest advice from NSW Health?
You can keep up to date with the latest general COVID-19 information at the NSW Health website.
> Q. Is accommodation available for me to reduce the risk of transmission to my family/household?
After consultation with ASMOF and other health unions, the NSW Government has committed to providing frontline workers with alternative accommodation. ASMOF is awaiting further information on the full details of alternative accommodation for doctors on the frontline which we expect soon.
Some basic principles have been agreed to- it will be free, it’s voluntarily, meals are provided and it will be available across NSW.
If you are seeking alternative accommodation we advise you to contact your local manager in the first instance.
> Q. What happens if I need to self-isolate/or I’m quarantined from work?
Paid special leave of up to 20 days IS available:
for people who need to be excluded from workplace/placed in quarantine.
if the workplace is closed
if you have caring responsibilities or have transport disruptions (without needing to exhaust other forms of leave first)
if you are sick and have exhausted your sick leave
for some casual employees and locums if required to self-isolate (depends on your employment arrangements)
Paid special leave is NOT available:
If an employee is quarantined after they knowingly travelled to a country where the Smart Traveller advice for that country (on the day they travel) is: ‘do not travel’, ‘reconsider your need to travel’ or ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ due to COVID-19, they may work from home but won’t have access to paid special leave.
Paid sick leave IS available:
- For people who are sick – apply for sick leave as usual before applying for special leave.
- In the first three months of employment.
Casual employees and locums may be entitled to special leave if they are required to self-isolate due to close contact COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. This will depend on the nature of the member’s engagement; including the length of engagement and whether the casual has regular and systematic shifts.
VMOs will not be entitled to paid special leave.
Your access to leave often depends on your specific circumstances. If you have any queries or concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch with ASMOF at (02) 9212 6900 or email@example.com
> Q. Can I make a new leave request?
But hospitals have been asked to suspend business as usual processes for leave approval (annual, long service, leave without pay). Hospitals are going to establish in their surge plans how new leave requests will be approved over the next six months.
But there is NO leave freeze.
All leave applications should be considered on a case by case basis and there will be personal circumstances considerations (e.g. bereavement, family issues, weddings).
Your management will consider the following factors with leave requests:
- projected workforce supply for COVID-19.
- high demand periods such as school holidays.
- winter flu (surge in demand and possibility of increase numbers of staff absent due to personal illness/ family illness).
- strategies for staff to work outside their usual allocation to support high demand areas.
- supporting settings where there are existing vacancies.
> Q. What about my existing approved leave?
Where leave (annual, long service, leave without pay) has already been approved this should proceed unless there is significant reason to withdraw approval.
If you are asked to cancel existing approved leave and you do not agree with this request then please contact ASMOF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
> Q. Can I take TESL and Official Overseas Travel that’s already booked?
For Official Overseas Travel booked and approved prior to 5 March 2020 (including TESL), the following applies:
If the Commonwealth Government’s Smart Traveller advice indicates ‘do not travel’or‘reconsider your need to travel’, or‘exercise a high degree of caution’ prior to departure, travel is to be cancelled. Otherwise:
✔ a documented risk assessment should be undertaken to determine whether such overseas travel should continue in light of the developing COVID-19 situation.
✔ the risk assessment should be undertaken as soon as practicable to do so, in order to minimise impact on the individual staff member/s and maximise potential for refunding/ crediting/ cancellation of bookings.
✔ Key considerations should include:
► The staff member’s safety while overseas
► Identified requirements of the workforce surge plan in relation to the staff member
► Potential delayed return to Australia and potential quarantine period further delaying return to work once back in Australia
► Any exceptional circumstances
► NSW Health Public Health advice until departure: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx
► Novel Coronavirus travel information provided at https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/news-and-updates/novel-coronavirus-covid-19
Important to note: where the status of the destination changes prior to departure and the Government Smart Traveller advice indicates ‘do not travel’ or ‘reconsider your need to travel’ or ‘exercise a high degree of caution’, official overseas travel is to be cancelled and not proceed.
> Q.Can I make a new Official Overseas Travel application (including TESL)?
New approvals of official overseas travel (regardless of the COVID-19 status of the overseas destination) are suspended. Alternatives to travel where practicable to do so are to be considered. This will be continually monitored and reviewed.
> Q.What about existing and new Official Domestic Travel application (including TESL)?
The NSW Department of Premier and cabinet have now released the following advice (which has now been incorporated into the NSW Health advice):
- All currently booked and approved international and domestic travel should be re-evaluated in line with the most up to date travel advice available at www.smarttraveller.gov.au.
- International and domestic travel should be restricted to essential travel only.
> Q. What is ASMOF travel insurance advice?
The latest advice from Chubb travel insurance can be found here. Please note that members also need to check on any further Government travel warnings.
> Q. I am concerned that my workplace isn’t safe due to COVID-19, what can I do?
It is important that members understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to working in sectors with greater chance of exposure to the virus.
The Commonwealth Department of Health has released guidance to employers and employees in certain industries. This includes resources for health professionals.
Any member who is immunocompromised or has a chronic condition should not be working in a high-risk area. Your employer must manage the risk.
If you believe that you fall into this category you should raise this with management and request that they make reasonable adjustments which removes you from the risk. This could be an alternative position within the hospital, or it could be working from home.
If you believe management has not taken appropriate steps to manage this risk then contact ASMOF at email@example.com.
> Q. I’m concerned about discrimination. What should I do?
Discrimination is currently a topical issue stemming from the community’s fear and concern around COVID19.
Employees’ rights against discrimination in the workplace are protected at both state and federal levels.
If you’re concerned you’ve been discriminated against, please contact your union immediately.
> Q. Term 2 Rotations have been suspended. Are there any exemptions?
ASMOF NSW has been in negotiations with NSW Health regarding the decision to suspend Term two rotations. These were due to occur on 20 April 2020 (for trainees on a five-term rotation) and on 4 May 2020 (for trainees on a four-term rotation).
NSW Health has said this suspension will assist Local Health Districts and Specialty Networks to implement COVID-19 workforce surge plans in the interests of ensuring the health system is in the best position to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. NSW Health and ASMOF will work together to deal with any problems that individual members may experience as a result of this change. This includes identifying extenuating circumstances that members have which will mean they should be rotated and advocating on behalf of members.
NSW Health has given a commitment to consider, on a case by case basis, requests brought to them by ASMOF on behalf of members to be rotated if there are good reasons for this.
What may constitute a “good reason”?
We believe the following factors need to be taken into account:
- the health and well-being of the member involved. This includes both mental and physical health. For example, some members are on rotations that have required them to move away from their home and family (metro to rural/rural to metro ) and ongoing separation may cause distress; some members are on night term rotations and continuation may affect their wellbeing.
- some terms are busier than others ( patient numbers/intensity of work/hours worked) and members may seek to move from these to avoid burnout.
- members who have concerns about not receiving a variety of training experiences by staying in the same term.
- members who are pregnant and may commence parental leave after term 1.
This list is not comprehensive but should be seen as a guide. Please contact ASMOF to discuss your particular circumstances. For example, if you have any issues about accommodation please let us know so we can talk to the Ministry.
We will also be asking that each LHD sets up a regular Joint Consultative Committee with the union to ensure updated information is forthcoming and/or where we can raise members’ concerns. ASMOF have raised the issue of Psychiatry trainees. But there has been no suggestion that any specialty is excluded.
As always, if you need ASMOF assistance with this or any other matter, you must contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 9212 6900.
For more general info see the NSW Health JMO website.
> Q. Will the suspension of Term 2 Rotations affect my training and registration?
The Medical Board of Australia has released advice that interns are not required to complete mandatory rotations in ED, medicine and surgery to be eligible for general registration. The Board will accept the following supervised clinical experience for general registration:
- at least 40 weeks full-time equivalent service (a reduction of seven weeks to allow for isolation/sick leave etc.)
- the clinical experience can take place in accredited and non-accredited positions
- the requirement for the usual rotations of medicine, surgery and emergency medical care is waived. The Board will accept clinical experience in any supervised rotations
For more information go to: https://www.medicalboard.gov.au/News/2020-03-30-COVID19-Board-response.aspx
We will also be asking that each LHD sets up a regular Joint Consultative Committee with the union to ensure updated information is forthcoming and/or where we can raise members’ concerns. As always, if you need ASMOF assistance with this or any other matter, you must contact us on email@example.com or on 9212 6900.
> Q.What is happening with the 2021 Junior Medical Officer recruitment campaign?
ASMOF are consulting with out DiT Councillors and meeting with NSW Health regularly to discuss. NSW Health have developed a webpage to keep you updated which you can find here: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/jmo/Pages/covid-19-update-jmo-campaign.aspx
> Q. Where can I find out more?
As situation changes from day-to-day, employees should familiarise themselves with the following resources and check for their updates:
- Commonwealth Department of Health
- World Health Organisation (WHO) – Daily Reports
- Safe Work NSW
- NSW Public Health Workforce Surge Guidelines
- NSW Health Influenza Pandemic Plan
In addition, ASMOF will continue to provide more information as it arises.
The ACTU has also prepared an advice sheet here.
As always – you can contact ASMOF calling 9212 6900 or emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a question? Ask ASMOF below.
ASMOF will respond to your question as soon as possible. If your question is urgent, please don’t hesitate to call us on (02) 9212 6900.