Allied Health Workforce Response to COVID 19 – experience of a tertiary health service

Dr Paula Harding1, Associate Professor Lisa Somerville1, Mr Doug McCaskie1

1Alfred Health, Prahran, Australia

On March 16th, 2020 the Victorian Government declared a State of Emergency to manage COVID-19. Allied Health (AH) at Alfred Health implemented the following four model of care changes:

  1. Rapid transformation of face to face AH services to telehealth
  2. Recruitment of an Allied Health Assistant (AHA) surge workforce
  3. Introduction of the AH COVID ward model of care
  4. Expansion of home-based AH services for sub-acute services

An evaluation was undertaken for each of the models of care to determine if the desired outcomes were achieved, and to inform staffing and service changes for AH that may continue, be developed or discontinue beyond COVID-19.

Qualitative and quantitative data was collected March 16th – September 13th 2020 from various sources including hospital information systems, survey and focus groups, and audits.

90% of 122 staff surveyed reported confidence in their skills to deliver telehealth. Telehealth was less effective for CALD patients and those with cognitive impairments. 75 AHAs were recruited to support AH and provided >8000 occasions of service on COVID, non COVID wards, ICU, SW and Nutrition. The AH Team Leader successfully worked remotely to coordinate care and provide leadership on the COVID ward reducing the number of AH staff required on the COVID ward. Home-based services successfully increased from 20 to 40 beds and high patient satisfaction was recorded. A more diverse group of patients with greater acuity received rehab at home.

The models of care implemented were appropriate, effective, efficient, and achieved the desired impact.


Paula Harding is a Physiotherapist with over 25 years of working in the private and public health sector. She completed a Masters of Manipulative Physiotherapy at LaTrobe University in 2000, and a Clinical Doctorate of Physiotherapy in 2012 at The University of Melbourne. Her current position is the Allied Health Workforce Manager for Alfred Health and responsibilities include developing an allied health workforce that is sustainable and meets the changing needs of the healthcare environment.

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