Small Gyms Can Stay Open only for Allied Health Clinical Treatment

Breaking news for today: Small gyms for clinical treatment can remain open as long as they meet the general social distancing requirements, namely space for social distancing of four (4) square metres per person and have no more than 10 people attending at the same time.

ESSA has not been given the specifics on what constitutes a “small gym”. Gyms with multiple treadmills and multiple workstations would most likely be classified as large gyms and not classified as necessary for providing essential health services. For example, a gym of 300 square metres or more would NOT be considered a small gym.

How can you tell if your gym is large? If other local gyms owned by non-Accredited Exercise Physiologists would consider your gym to be large, it is most likely large.

Think about the possibility that one of those gym owners may complain to the media and your business may end up on the front page of the news. Would your gym pass the “pub test” as being small? If the answer is “no”, then you need to shut down. Otherwise, you risk a personal fine and damaging both your professional reputation and the reputation of our sector, as well as the increased risk of Governments closing all gyms and allied health clinics.

One of our members had a visit from police this week checking on what was operating, so please take this issue seriously.

Indoor Group Classes Need to Cease

Given the new limit of no more than ten people being able to attend personal training classes at any one time, indoor group/personal training classes should cease.

ESSA does not believe indoor group/personal training classes can be classified as essential health services.

The ONLY exceptions are for:

- AEP providing group exercise classes for Medicare Item 81115 for type 2 diabetes group services

- Those ESSA accredited professionals who are registered as personal trainers with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

What you need to do:

· Only offer services to individuals with clinical treatment needs on an appointment basis.

· Close your clinic to the general public for fitness training.

· Remove timetables for groups classes from your website.

· Remove any reference to a gymnasium from your website.

· Review the wording on your website and focus on what clinical services you are providing to Australians who need clinical treatment.

· Consider whether you can offer an alternative to in-person essential individual health services by providing tele-consultations.



Outdoor Group Classes/Boot Camps - New Expert ASCEP, ESSA and SMA Advice

ESSA, along with the Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians (ACSEP) and Sports Medicine Australia (SMA), released a statement yesterday asking their collective membership to adhere to the following guidelines:

• Conduct strenuous outdoor exercise classes with no more than two others and maintain at least two-four metres distance between each person. Recognise that as you breathe more heavily during exercise you need to keep further distance.

• For less strenuous activity such as Thai Chi, run your classes with no more than two others, but keep a distance of at least two metres between each person.

Be proactive and share this media release on your social channels. Consider placing it on your practice notice board and front door.

Be proud that you belong to a professional body that can draw on evidence to keep you and your community safe.

ESSA’s interim Tele-service Standards

ESSA will release our Tele-Service Policy Statement on the evening of 27 March 2020 to support members in the continued provision of safe essential health services. Several member support resources will also be released on how to transition your business to tele-services.

Telehealth Medicare item number for AEPs

The Australian Government has expanded access to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic for some health services. There is expected to be more changes soon to telehealth access. Find out more on the latest current arrangements.

Telehealth for allied health is coming soon. This is from a joint media release with Dr Tony Bartone, Australian Medical Association President; President Dr Harry Nespolon, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners; and Michael Kidd AM, Principal Medical Advisor, Department of Health on the Expansion of Telehealth Services.

“It is expected a more comprehensive telehealth whole of population model of care and the detail of telehealth operations via phone and video will be confirmed by the end of this week as Stage four. This will include mental health and allied health consultations.”

ESSA expects the details on the service descriptors for the telehealth items may take up to a week to be published. Please be patient. Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) is working closely with the Australian Government to develop these, on your behalf.

Workers Compensation Schemes and Private Health Insurance funds

ESSA continues to work with state and territory-based workers’ compensation schemes and Private Healthcare Australia to favourably influence existing rules, item descriptors and item codes of these various stakeholders to fund the provision of AES tele-services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. ESSA has highlighted the evidence-based clinical effectiveness of AEP services for Australians. Our progress is to date with key stakeholders:

ESSA continues to work with state and territory Health Departments and other stakeholders at pace, to ensure the best interests of our members and your communities are considered in this changing environment. Rest assured, we will continue to update members daily as details are confirmed.


AEPs will be accepted within the healthcare shopping hour as long as they can show evidence.

Coles will accept:

  • Workplace identification –  any evidence of working as an allied health professional, such as work ID, payslip and ESSA accreditation certificate (if you have received the letter from Coles, it would be advisable to also take a copy of the letter).
  • Work uniform

Department of Health COVID-19 response update for Allied Health Practitioners Key Messages – 26 March 2020

Over 10,000 people watched this webinar.

The Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP wants face-to-face services to remain open, especially in small rural communities. He does not want clients with chronic disease or acute conditions to miss out on face-to-face health care. Minister Hunt is aware of the business viability issues facing health services. Private allied practices qualify as small businesses for business incentives.

Please do the free CIVID-19training if you have not already done this:

The Australian College of Nursing has been provided with funding for 1,000 free refresher training courses to support nurses re-enter the workforce.

There may be more guidance coming on what are essential services.

There is no news yet if allied health will remain open in Stage 3 (see below for more details on where to access Australia’s Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19).

Medicare items are structured to be used by land line telephone and video. Telehealth may not be a viable option for all clients. Home visits may be better for older and vulnerable clients.

Please do not treat clients who have a fever or a respiratory condition.

At this stage, telehealth is not available for clients with a Chronic Disease Management (formerly Enhanced Primary Care or EPC) plan. This is being reviewed in the coming days (see above for more details).

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not necessary for low risk allied health services. Please exercise your own judgement as to whether to treat a client without PPE.
More on PPE below.

Reference made to the new testing criteria for the virus (see below).

Advice will follow on whether massage therapy within an allied health clinic is allowed. It is highly unlikely it is, given the existing restrictions.

Please consider signs on your front door to remind clients with a fever or a respiratory condition or who have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 to not enter your business.

Communication to the Public

Allied health professionals are highly trusted professionals in our community, and it is important you play a role in communicating this message to your clients, family and friends, along with general balanced information about this virus. The campaign resources for the general community are available at: https:

Home Visits/Entry into Aged Care Facilities

It is absolutely essential to continue home visits and the delivery of services in Aged Care Facilities if that is what you have been doing. Be mindful of your own health when scheduling these visits and observe social distancing rules.

What’s Ahead

Australia is stage 2 of the coronavirus shutdown. If you want to see what’s ahead in Stages 3 and 4, the Australian Government has released its plan:

COVID-19 Hotline

The COVID-19 national hotline (1800 020 080) has now been expanded to support general practices to manage the flow of cases. This hotline is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People who believe they may have been exposed to, or have, COVID-19 are encouraged to initially call the national hotline, rather than their GP or local health service, to seek advice.

Personal Protective Equipment

There is a global shortage of masks. The highest priority of the Government is to ensure access to masks and other PPE for front line acute health service and primary care staff. This includes:

• public hospitals (supporting the states and territories), general practices, community pharmacies, and other settings where people are most likely to be presenting with COVID-19

• residential aged care facilities in the event of an outbreak.

Access to masks is being kept under review as more stocks become available and if risks increase. If and when more became available, they will be prioritised first to those allied health professionals whose work entails close physical contact with their patients and only when the intervention is strictly necessary and urgent.