COVID-19 Business Information and FAQs

PNZ is continuing to monitor COVID-19 updates to provide members with information for physiotherapy businesses as it becomes available. Answers to some frequently asked questions are below as well as links to business-related COVID-19 information. Please also check the PNZ COVID-19 web page as there may be additional links relevant to your business.


COVID-19 Business Support

Updated August 2021

The latest Government information on COVID-19 for businesses is available at business.govt.nz. This includes a summary of financial support and COVID-19 financial support tool to identify what financial help may be available to you.

A COVID-19 Business Helpline, 0800 500 362 (North Island) or 0800 505 096 (South Island), is also available to provide support and advice on:

  • Government financial support.
  • What different alert levels mean for your business.
  • Business continuity.
  • Finding expert help, like a business mentor or advisor.
  • Team management including staffing changes and employee wellness.

Ministry of Health Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination of the Health Workforce

The Ministry of Health (MoH) advise that New Zealand’s health workforce sits across all four groups in New Zealand’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Health care workers at the border and in MIQ facilities fall into Group 1, have already been offered the COVID-19 vaccine, and as of July 15, must be vaccinated by the dates highlighted on the COVID-19 border and MIQ vaccination webpage. 

Health care workers in Group 2 include:

  • frontline (non-border) health care workers potentially exposed to COVID-19 (either cases or samples) while providing care 
  • frontline health care workers who may expose more vulnerable people to COVID-19. 
  • staff who are not registered health professionals but have contact with patients, for example, receptionists and security staff.  

While the Government has not mandated the vaccine for frontline health care workers in Group 2, all health sector organisations engaging health care workers still have obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to take all reasonable steps to eliminate, or otherwise control, the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. Health sector organisations can help achieve this by: 

  • providing workers with relevant and timely information from the Ministry of Health about vaccination and its benefits 
  • facilitating on-site vaccinations 
  • giving staff adequate time to complete the vaccination process and include travel time if vaccination is off-site 
  • allowing workers to get vaccinated during work hours without loss of pay 
  • supporting staff choice of vaccination provider if the vaccine is offered in the workplace; for example, some staff may choose to be vaccinated at their usual general practice. 

Health care workers should be reminded to continue good hygiene practices and take other precautions to prevent the virus spreading – being vaccinated does not remove the need for PPE, regular testing, and continuing with other precautions to ensure they don’t adversely affect the health and safety of others. 

Health care workers who object to being vaccinated 
As a vaccination is a medical treatment, it’s acknowledged that health care workers have the right of refusal of treatment in accordance with section 11 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. However, restrictions upon workers as part of their employment may be appropriate where they pose a public health risk to patients and others.

Health care workers cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of their religious beliefs, their health status, or any other prohibited grounds under the Human Rights Act 1993, however, ideological beliefs about vaccination (e.g. a dislike of vaccination in itself) are unlikely to be protected grounds under the Human Rights Act 1993.  

Health care workers who refuse to disclose their vaccination status 
Workers do not have to tell the health sector organisation/agency (usually the health care worker’s employer) if they have been vaccinated or why they are unable or choose not to be vaccinated.  

A health sector organisation/agency can ask workers if they have been vaccinated - if workers do not disclose their vaccination status, the health sector organisation/agency may assume the workers are unvaccinated, but should first inform workers of this assumption. 

Roles which must be performed by a vaccinated health care worker 
A health sector organisation/agency can require a specific role to be performed by a vaccinated person, provided they have first completed a health and safety risk assessment in collaboration with workers, unions and other representatives (where applicable). For more information about assessing whether a specific role needs to be performed by a vaccinated worker, visit the Worksafe website.


Telehealth

ACC has sent a provider update informing physiotherapists that they will continue to enable telehealth through COVID-19 where clinically appropriate across contracted services and Cost of Treatment Regulations.


COVID-19 Rent Disputes

PNZ has been informed that for those who have not resolved their COVID-19 lockdown rent disputes, the Government has announced that it will fully fund arbitration and mediation through the New Zealand Dispute Resolution Centre (NZDRC).

Further information is on the Ministry of Justice website and comprehensive information at nzdrc.co.nz.

The subsidised services are available for six months from 25 September 2020 to the end of March 2021. Use of the services is voluntary, which means both the landlord and tenant need to agree to take part.

This information was provided through AuSAE and originally from the New Zealand Dispute Resolution Centre Te Pokapū mō te Whakatau Tautohe o Aotearoa.


Frequently Asked Questions

Physiotherapy New Zealand is continuing to monitor updates to provide members with the latest COVID-19 information as it becomes available. We are following national and international best practice, and urge you to be vigilant for signs of the virus and be aware of Government information sources.

The PNZ website has links to shared resources, including the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). While our website is being updated regularly, please be aware that the latest information is on the Government pages.

There are, of course, some physiotherapy specific questions. We will continue to add to these where it is helpful to provide more specific advice not covered elsewhere. Because the answers are date specific we have dated the answers and will update as the situation changes.

Will telehealth be funded if we can’t see patients?

  • ACC have agreed to fund physiotherapists to provide  telehealth for initial contact and follow up. The ACC COVID-19 information for providers is here.
  • Answer reviewed 12 August 2020.

Does BMS insurance cover physiotherapy services delivered by telehealth?

  • A document from BMS on COVID-19 is available here. Telehealth is an acceptable practice provided it’s considered within the scope of your individual practice. Your professional indemnity policy with BMS has a jurisdictional limitation within New Zealand. The policy terms and conditions will still apply in the event of a claim. BMS can be contacted at 0800 999 267 and pnz@bmsgroup.com.
  • Answer reviewed 24 August 2021.

Do treatments via telehealth impact the total number of client treatments funded by ACC? 

  • Currently ACC considers telehealth a tool through which a provider may choose to deliver a consultation. All treatments, whether delivered in-person or via telehealth, contribute to the total number of treatments received by the client. So for CoTR the trigger limit for treatments is 16.
  • ACC are working to ensure their codes reflect this (due to codes being implemented quickly, as the country went into COVID-19 alert levels, ACC’s normal infrastructure regarding treatment limits was not able to be put into place).
  • ACC information on prior approval for further treatment is available here. This includes that prior approval is required when “the treatment trigger number of 16 has, or is about to be reached.”
  • Answer reviewed 23 June 2020.

If we are using telehealth what is the best platform out of Skype/Messenger/WhatsApp/Hangouts? If the client doesn’t have access to technology can we use a phone only? 

  • PNZ doesn’t have a recommended platform.
  • You will need to consider patient preference and how a remote consultation can be achieved. The ability to be able to use any one / two that cross over apple and android would be best…..or the ability to use all 4.
  • Please refer to Risk Management For Skype Use For Clinical Video Consultations.
  • Here is the link to the AHANZ telehealth guidelines.
  • The service needs to meet the Physiotherapy Telehealth Standard.
  • ACC expectations are that telehealth services will be via videoconferencing as this type of capability is integrated into many practice management systems and many people have smart phones. However as a COVID-19 response they will accept telephone consultations as per the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand guidelines below.
  • ACC’s reference for tech used and security is existing guidelines as per NZ Telehealth Forum and Resource Centre.
  • Recognising that not all people accessing services have access to technology the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand have set out some guidelines on telehealth during COVID-19.
  • Answer reviewed 1 April 2020.

What is the advice about masks now – it has changed since the earlier Alert Levels?

  • The government has updated its guidance regarding wearing masks – particularly at Alert Level 2 and above. At this stage the government is recommending, but not requiring, masks where physical distancing is not possible. Physiotherapy treatment will fit that category therefore recommending wearing a mask is recommended. This may change. Please note that wearing masks is required on buses, trains, ferries and on all flights (except where exemptions apply). Face coverings such as a bandana or a scarf can also be used if you don’t have a mask. The Ministry of Health advice around masks is here
  • At Alert Levels 3 and 4 where urgent treatment is given PPE including masks is required.
  • Answer reviewed 4 September 2020.

Can we use re-useable masks in our physio practice and what guidance is there around these masks?

  • As part of PPE use the overall guidance around hand washing, the putting on and taking off equipment is standard regardless of type of mask. The Ministry of Health guidance on standard infection control precautions is here
  • Medical/surgical masks should be used any time if screening questions have indicated there is a risk the patient/client has a respiratory illness.
  • Re-useable masks may be considered. Note these masks should be changed after 4 hours or earlier if mask becomes damp or soiled. Washing for re-useable masks requires water temperature of at least 60°.
  • The protocols for donning and doffing re-useable masks are the same as for disposable masks.
  • The need for 4 hour changes and washing will mean you need to ensure an adequate supply of re-useable masks per staff member.
  • Answer reviewed 4 September 2020.

Can physiotherapists require a patient to wear a mask as a condition of providing treatment to the patient?

  • Yes. The government advice for people at Alert Level 2 is “wear a mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible”. Physiotherapy treatment will fit that category therefore recommending wearing a mask is recommended.
  • Treatment at Alert Level 3 is only for urgent care and PPE including masks is required.
  • Answer reviewed 13 August 2020.

If the patient refuses to wear a mask, can the therapist refuse to provide treatment?

  • Yes. Under the Physiotherapy Code of Ethics 4.5 a Physiotherapist can refuse to treat a patient if they have good reasons. The patient should be informed of the reasons; offered alternative options of care, such as telehealth or can be referred to another healthcare provider.
  • Answer reviewed 13 August 2020.

What cleaning product should I be using in my clinics?

  • The Ministry of Health advice on cleaning following a probable COVID case is here. Any hospital grade detergent/disinfectant is suitable. MoH recommend a 2-in-1 (cleaning and disinfectant) to increase efficiency.
  • Answer reviewed 12 August 2020.

Where can I get PPE, including masks?

  • Your usual supplier should be able to provide PPE including hand sanitiser and masks. The Ministry of Health have requested you only contact them if you cannot access your own supply. Note: surgical masks are recommended for most physiotherapy treatment. Aerosol generating procedures may require a fitted N95 mask. Such procedures should only be done in the DHB setting for if COVID-19 infection is suspected.
  • Answer reviewed 13 August 2020.

Should I be cancelling group exercise classes?

  • For Alert Level 2 the advice around group sessions (presuming these are fewer than 100 people) is they can continue with physical distancing measures in place – but of course that does depend on the group. Your consideration for a group session for mostly vulnerable population would be different to a Pilates reformer class in the community.
  • The Ministry of Health note that staff and patients of Health and Disability Services at Alert Level 2 should:
    • keep at least 2 meters from strangers/people you don’t know.
    • keep at least 1 meter from people who aren’t close friends, family, or whānau or colleagues in your workplace.
    • you can have close physical contact with your friends, family, and whānau but you should use your judgement about any risk to you or to them.
    • if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms you should stay at home.
  • At Alert Level 3 group treatment and exercise classes are cancelled.
  • Answer reviewed 5 March 2020.

Where can I get training on COVID-19?

  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have teamed up with the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team to offer a course on COVID-19. Running for three weeks, this online course is being offered at no cost. Read more here.
  • Physioplus is providing an online programme of courses on COVID- 2019 at no cost. The aim of the course is to provide a practicing physiotherapist with the knowledge, practices and skills to allow them to play a proactive role in global and local efforts to reduce the impact of this pandemic. Read more here.
  • Answer reviewed 20 March 2020.

What happens if a Physio or one of my staff is thought to have COVID?

  • Contact the Ministry of Health’s, Healthline on 0800 358 5453 as soon as possible to determine:
    • contact tracing requirements
    • who needs to be tested
    • their advice around the clinic/organisation remaining open
  • Risk assess to determine if it is safe to remain open or if the clinic/organisation needs to be closed if awaiting guidance and instruction from the Ministry of Health.
  • Deep cleaning of the clinic in line with guidance from the Ministry of Health on cleaning following a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
  • Contact the Physiotherapy Board for any further guidance.
  • Answer reviewed 12 August 2020.

Do I have to register all kanohi-ki-te-kanohi visits with the Physiotherapy Board?

  • The Ministry of Health do not require this provided you have the QR Code for NZ COVID Tracer app in place and are recording patient details. This allows track and trace information to be collected.
  • Answer reviewed 13 August 2020.

Do I need a QR code for the NZ COVID Tracer App?

  • From midday on Wednesday 19 August all businesses must display a QR Code for the NZ COVID Tracer App. You can download the posters from here.
  • Answer reviewed 12 August 2020.

My practice is inside a medical centre – if they have a QR Code do I need one also?

  • The requirement is for each business to display a QR Code.  If your business is separate to the medical centre then you should have your own code.
  • If your business is part of the medical centre you may still chose to have a QR Code poster – this will help your staff and patients register their visits to you.
  • The COVID Tracer app also allows for manual entry of visits which can be useful for community visits.
  • Answer reviewed 13 August 2020.

Does the insurance through PNZ cover business continuity?

  • The PNZ insurance programmes through BMS are designed to protect members against professional indemnity and/or public liability.
  • Members who have a personal accident or illness policy to protect their own incomes whilst unable to work should check to see what cover this would provide.
  • Members should also refer to their clinic insurance for any potential business continuity cover that may apply due to closure or loss of income.
  • Answer reviewed 30 March 2020.

What can physiotherapists do to support the Public Health COVID-19 response?

  • The Ministry of Health set up a register of health professionals available to support the COVID-19 response – the Surge Workforce.
  • Physios who had registered for this can expect to be contacted and have their details and availability confirmed.
  • Answer reviewed 12 August 2020.

    If I take on work from the Ministry Surge Workforce register will this be covered by my BMS insurance policy through PNZ?

    • BMS have confirmed that COVID vaccination is included the PNZ scope of practice, list of modalities, on the basis the physiotherapist has evidence of completing the approved COVID vaccinator training. If your employer requires evidence of you having personal indemnity insurance prior to working as a vaccinator please contact BMS on 0800 999 267 or email pnz@bmsgroup.com. As per questions we received in 2020 regarding COVID-19, if a physiotherapist is taking on this role for MoH or a DHB our expectation is that the DHB involved would be carrying the insurance to cover the vaccination staff, however PNZ advice is to check with the MoH or DHB you are working for to ensure this is correct.
    • Answer reviewed 27 July 2021

    Will District Health Boards provide insurance cover for vaccinators?

    • If a physiotherapist is taking on a vaccinator role for the MoH or a DHB, MoH has advised that the determination of personal indemnity insurance cover will be on a DHB by DHB basis. Physiotherapy vaccinators should check with their DHB as to whether the DHB is carrying the insurance to cover vaccination staff. If your DHB does not provide indemnity insurance cover and you are required to show evidence of personal indemnity insurance prior to delivering vaccinations please contact BMS.
    • Answer reviewed 29 July 2021.

    Why isn’t physiotherapy able to provide kanohi-ki- te-kanohi care like GPs?

    • The public health imperative to reduce person to person contact to an absolute minimum in Alert Levels 3 and 4 override any considerations about the important place of physiotherapy in the primary health system and post op rehab.
    • The New Zealand health system is not well placed to manage the levels of outbreaks seen in other jurisdictions.
    • The important role of physiotherapy is recognised in the Ministry and we have the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer at the top table in the Ministry.
    • Answer reviewed 12 August 2020

    I provide services to essential workers – does that mean I am an essential service too?

    What are the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand (PBNZ) CPD requirements?

    • A Physiotherapy Board 18 March 2020 COVID-19 update provides assurance to physiotherapists, that any course attendance impacted by cancellations due to COVID-19 will have this taken into consideration during any audits they may undertake.
    • Answer reviewed 30 March 2020.


    Other Online Resources


    Employer’s Guide to Managing Coronavirus

    PNZ's employment support partner, Humankind, have provided an Employer’s Guide to Managing Coronavirus. Please read this here (received March 2020), including answers to frequently asked questions.

    Humankind also hosted a webinar for PNZ members on 1 April 2020, outlining employer obligations and options during COVID-19. A recording of the webinar is available here. Links to resources discussed in the webinar are below.


    Page updated August 2021