CEO Primary Matters – 12 August 2020

Staying Informed on COVID-19

We have now moved into our second week of Stage 3 restrictions as part of the state’s COVID-19 response.

Over the last few weeks, Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) has conducted Project ECHO COVID-19: a series of education and information sessions for primary care providers on COVID-19 and its impact on health, including residential aged care pandemic response planning. These sessions provide the opportunity for case presentations and Q&A from providers and I strongly recommend these sessions to all primary care care providers in western Victoria (register here).

The outbreaks in aged care and in the community have highlighted the important role of GPs and general practice in our response. WVPHN continues to advocate to state and commonwealth governments regarding this role and the long-term role in care for COVID-19 positive patients, with some early pilot work by North Western PHN, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and cohealth demonstrating the benefits of such an approach involving general practice.

I also urge GPs to consider joining WVPHN’s online communities of practice (CoPs), with one setup for each sub-region in western Victoria (Ballarat Goldfields, Geelong Otway, Great South Coast and Wimmera Grampians) to enable GPs to network with each other and share information about region-specific issues, responses, strategies and supports with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please email and provide your name, practice and location to join your CoP.

Individuals will be aware of the much discussed local requirements in their own areas, such as the wearing of masks. However, there is consistent key messaging being provided by both the state and commonwealth governments that the WVPHN implores all primary care providers adhere to, including:

  • Health care workers should not attend work if they are unwell
  • Staff should minimise contact with patients where this does not impact the quality of care being provided. This includes:
    • Use of telehealth or virtual consultations when appropriate.
    • Adequate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and maintaining physical distancing when appropriate to do so.
    • Maintenance of physical distancing, hand hygiene and masks/PPE in activities such as ward rounds, break times, travelling between health services and into other places such as community facilities and homes.
    • Consideration of the minimum number of people who are required to be physically present at rounds.
    • Ensure only healthcare workers essential to the delivery of care are entering suspected or confirmed areas of COVID-19.
  • It should be also noted that health care workers and other contacts who have taken all recommended infection control precautions, including the use of recommended PPE, while caring for a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not considered to be close contacts

To find out more information about how to stay safe, please visit the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) website.

WVPHN is also providing daily updates based on the latest information from DHHS including cases numbers, clinical support tools such as HealthPathways, and any other important information from the Government that will boost your knowledge and understanding of the situation. Please see Health Alert – COVID-19 and bookmark it in your web browser.

COVID-19 and the 80/20 rule

In recognition of the fact that COVID-19 may cause an unusual level of need for attendance items in consultation, the Director of the Professional Services Review (PSR) Professor Julie Quinlivan has stated that if any practitioner is referred for a breach of the 80/20 rule, the impact of patients presenting for COVID-19 testing will be considered. However, practitioners are reminded that the need for a record of the service bill during that time remains. Contact PSR or (02) 6120 9100 for more information.

Improving wound care in Wimmera Grampians

With Wound Awareness Week 2020 next week (17-23 August 2020), I wanted to quickly touch on some upcoming work WVPHN is doing in the wound management space. The WVPHN Needs Assessment highlights the high levels of chronic conditions that can be related to higher rates of chronic wounds, with two Wimmera Grampians local government areas (LGAs) (Hindmarsh and Northern Grampians) being in the top three for the highest rates of type-2 diabetes and cellulitis when compared the rest of LGAs in western Victoria.

Working with Wounds Australia, our ‘Wimmera Grampians Wound Management’ pilot project is centred around improving capacity and capability for our health care providers to become champions in best practice wound management principles and guidelines in these affected LGAs.

Stay safe.

Rowena Clift

Chief Executive Officer

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