Health Alert – COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus)

July 13: Continuous care with telehealth stage seven

In a major boost for primary health care, the Australian Government is further strengthening telehealth arrangements as recommended by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and other medical experts. READ MORE

June 22: Current advice to clinicians from the Department of Health

Practitioners are encouraged to test any patients who meet the clinical criteria below:
Fever OR chills in the absence of an alternative diagnosis that explains the clinical presentation*
OR
Acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, anosmia or loss of smell or loss of taste)
Note: In addition, testing is recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with COVID-19** AND who are close contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19; who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days; or who are healthcare or aged care workers.
*Clinical discretion applies including consideration of the potential for co-infection (e.g. concurrent infection with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza)
**headache, myalgia, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.

If referring your patients for COVID-19 testing, a list of testing locations can be found on the getting tested for coronavirus page.
Any coronavirus test reported by a laboratory as having detected SARS-CoV-2 on PCR will be treated as positive for the purposes of public health actions, regardless of repeat testing of the sample. It is not appropriate to advise a patient that a test is a false positive without prior consultation with the department. Current processing time for COVID-19 tests is one to three days.
Practitioners are encouraged to also consider testing for other infectious diseases as warranted by the patient’s clinical presentation and history, including travel history. Test for influenza in patients presenting with compatible respiratory symptoms and request a stool culture in patients presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms.

WVPHN COVID-19 Response page

June 19: Fact sheet for GPs

RACGP Fact sheet: How to respond to a case of COVID-19 in general practice
The RACGP has developed a fact sheet to support general practices in the event of a COVID-19 case. Download resources here

June 17: Free and secure video consultations: Get registered for healthdirect Video Call

The Department of Health has funded the use of healthdirect Video Call for all GPs until 30 September 2020. This program supports usage of the MBS telehealth items for COVID-19.
Practice managers can register for a free licence on behalf of their general practice here.
This program is designed to keep patients and GPs safe while practices transition into a sustainable, blended model of delivering care.
Healthdirect Australia is working with the Department of Health to determine how the program will be funded beyond September 2020.

About healthdirect Video Call
healthdirect Video Call is a secure, private and sustainable technology providing convenient and safe access to care.
It is purpose-built for health settings, mimicking the set-up of a GP clinic, providing a virtual waiting room for patients before the GP joins the video consultation.
It protects privacy on both ends of the consultation, leaving no digital footprint.
The service uses software developed by Coviu, a spin-off from the CSIRO’s Data61 digital innovation project.
A pilot program funded by the Department of Health to encourage primary care providers to adopt the use of Video Call service has existed for several years.
Video Call operates within the healthcare systems of Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Victoria.
Visit Healthdirect Australia for more information about Video Call and other telehealth services delivered on behalf of the governments of Australia.

June 10: General Practitioner update on COVID-19

Professor Michael Kidd, Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer will be presenting a COVID-19 response webinar on key updates as well as focusing on advice to older people as restrictions ease around the country.  The webinar is scheduled for Thursday 11 June at 11:30am to midday.  MORE DETAILS

June 1: Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule Updated

The Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits has been updated as of today (1 June 2020) and the Summary of Changes can be found on the New, Amended and Deleted Items page.

May 29: nbn helping to support emergency and essential services organisations

nbn is providing up to $50 million to assist phone and internet providers to support small and medium businesses, as well as emergency services organisations, essential services organisations and telehealth providers. READ MORE

May 28: Commonwealth Aged Services and Support

The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line provides information, support and connection to Older Australians.
Older Australians, their relatives, carers, friends or supporters can call 1800 171 866 8.30am – 6pm AEST Weekdays for any information or services they may need.
Health professionals can also refer people (with consent) for a call back if they are worried about the person’s decision to stop or alter their normal home care services. This can be done by dialling 1800 171 866 and selecting option 1.

The National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP) is a free, independent and confidential service supporting older people who receive or are applying for government-subsidised aged care by providing advocacy services and support to resolve issues with their aged care, helping them to understand and access the aged care system, and informing them of their aged care rights. NACAP can be accessed via phone 1800 700 600 or by visit HERE

Read more on our website

May 22: Update from Victorian Chief Health Officer

  • As of 21 May 2020, the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Victoria is 1,581, a net increase of 1 since yesterday.
  • Of the total 1,581 cases, there have been 1,310 in metropolitan Melbourne and 232 in regional Victoria. A number of cases remain under investigation.
  • Victoria’s state of emergency has been extended until 11.59 pm on Sunday 31 May. New Directions were issued at 11.59 pm Tuesday 12 May with some restrictions eased.
  • Victoria is aiming to fully resume all elective surgery lists by the end of July 2020. Resuming the elective surgery blitz that was paused in early 2020 will then be considered.
  • Medical practitioners needing clinical information or to notify confirmed cases can contact the Department of Health and Human Services Communicable Diseases Section on 1300 651 160 (24 hours).
  • More details

May 18: Mental health update

COVID-19 response update for Mental Health Care Practitioners
Date: 20 May 2020 Time: 11:00 am (Australia/Sydney UTC+10:00) Duration: 00:30
Hosted by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd AM, to update Mental Health Care practitioners on the COVID-19 response – as part of a series of webinars.Professor Kidd will be joined by:Christine Morgan, CEO National Mental Health Commission and Mark Roddam, First Assistant Secretary, Mental Health Division, Department of Health.
Details HERE

May 11: BreastScreen services resume

BreastScreen Victoria has resumed screening from today, following a pause in services to safeguard clients and staff from the risk of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It will take a few weeks before all screening clinics across the state are open, and there will be a reduced number of appointments due to COVID-19 infection control provisions. READ MORE

COVID-19 testing for Victoria continues

A major COVID-19 testing blitz is currently taking place across Victoria, to better understand how the virus is spreading in the community.  Due to the high volume of tests being processed, results may take longer than usual.
Widespread testing is strongly encouraged at the present time. Practitioners are encouraged to test any patients who meet the clinical criteria below:

  • Fever OR chills in the absence of an alternative diagnosis that explains the clinical presentation
    OR
  • Acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or anosmia)

Note: In addition, testing is recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with COVID-19 AND who are close contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19; who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days; or who are healthcare or aged care workers.  If referring your patients for COVID-19 testing, a list of testing locations can be found on the getting tested for coronavirus page.

May 7: Reminder to download COVIDSafe

The COVIDSafe app has been developed by the Australian Government to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The app has the capacity to find and contain outbreaks quickly and will allow the government to ultimately ease restrictions while still keeping Australians safe.
The new COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. Downloading the app is something individuals can do to protect themselves and their family and friends and save the lives of other Australians.

May 5:  Mask distribution update

Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) has a limited supply of surgical masks available for allied health professionals in our region who work in areas of high risk and where there is no available commercial supply. Under directives from the Federal Government, WVPHN must consider a range of criteria when determining if it is a priority to supply masks to an allied health provider.
We are currently processing requests and will respond to your request by the end of this week.  DETAILS AND FORM HERE

May 1:  Latest updates

Today’s Prime Minister media conference announcements:

  • A $205M one-off payment to aged care providers across Australia for the additional costs and expenses in relation to COVID-19.
  • Australian government will consider relaxing COVID-19 restrictions next week and will make an announcement next Friday.

COVID-19 information for employers
Employers should review or develop their COVID-19 business continuity plan. Planning can help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on your business. READ MORE

April 30: Respiratory clinic mapping

The Commonwealth government’s GP Clinic Map has been developed and linked into the Model of Care. This map provides GPs and primary care practitioners with details of local Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing clinics across Victoria for referral purposes.

April 29: More COVID-19 tests and equipment

The Australian Government in partnership with Minderoo Foundation and private pathology providers, has secured an additional 10 million COVID-19 test kits and pathology equipment to be installed across the country. READ MORE

April 28: COVIDSafe app

The COVIDSafe app has been developed by the Australian Government to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The app has the capacity to find and contain outbreaks quickly and will allow the government to ultimately ease restrictions while still keeping Australians safe.
The new COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. Downloading the app is something individuals can do to protect themselves and their family and friends and save the lives of other Australians.

April 27: Electronic prescribing

Ahead of the introduction of electronic prescribing later in the year, the following interim arrangements are now in place:

  • a digital image (such a photo, scan or pdf) of a prescription can be sent electronically by the prescriber to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. This electronic copy can be used by the pharmacy to supply the medicine and claim from the PBS in the same way as a paper prescription. The pharmacy may communicate directly with the patient to arrange payment and to organise collection or home delivery of the medicines.
  • alternatively, the paper prescription can be sent by post to the patient. The prescription can then be taken to a pharmacy by a family member or friend. As part of the National Health Plan, electronic prescribing is being fast-tracked. Work to upgrade healthcare providers’ clinical software is well underway and is expected to be ready by May 2020. The Australian Government has announced the interim arrangements for prescribing will remain in place until 30 September 2020, or until full electronic prescribing rollout is implemented.

For more information, see the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Testing increase

Up to 100,000 Victorians will be tested for coronavirus over the next two weeks as part of a major testing blitz by the state government to better understand how the virus is spreading in the community and set us up for the potential easing of restrictions.
Common symptoms of coronavirus are fever, breathing difficulties, breathlessness, cough, sore throat, fatigue or tiredness.  Anyone who has any symptoms, no matter how mild, such as a runny nose or scratchy throat, is encouraged to get a test. READ MORE

April 24:  Latest from the Australian government

A range of information has been released from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer.  Full details HERE

  • Update on telehealth.  AHPRA and the National Boards have released telehealth guidance for health practitioners. The guidance outlines expectations as to how registered health practitioners will use telehealth in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and discusses how the Code of Conduct is applied to consultations carried out via phone or video conferencing.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  The Australian Government has now received 58 million protective face masks that will help provide essential protection for frontline health workers at risk of COVID-19.  The protective face masks have arrived ahead of the scheduled delivery date of the end of April, and in greater numbers than the 54 million previously predicted. They will allow for additional allocations to be released from the National Medical Stockpile to healthcare workers.  The Government’s highest priority is to ensure access to masks and other PPE for health and aged care workers – people who have a high risk of close contact with COVID-19 cases.   At this time, the Government is only supplying P2 and surgical masks from the National Medical Stockpile to workers at the highest risk of exposure. Other forms of PPE will be made available once additional supplies are received.
  • Flu vaccination.  The Australian Government has secured three million additional doses of seasonal influenza vaccine to protect Australians from the flu, bringing the total number of doses of flu vaccine available for Australians to 16.5 million for 2020. These three million additional doses will be available via GPs and community pharmacies across April, May and June.
  • Prescriptions via telehealth.  As part of the National Health Plan, enabling prescriptions via Telehealth has been fast tracked. Work to upgrade healthcare providers’ clinical software is underway and is expected to be ready by May 2020. More information is available here.

April 23: Access to health professional lists

Updated contact lists of general practitioners, specialists and community pharmacies throughout western Victoria are now available online.  Lists are available in each of our four sub-regions following a comprehensive program to ensure all details are up to date and meet privacy requirements.

Department of Health provides snapshot of COVID-19 impact

The Department of Health has developed an infographic that provides a quick view of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Australia. The Department updates it every afternoon based on the data received by 3.00pm from states and territories.

April 22: Elective surgery returning

The federal government in partnership with the state and territory governments, peak surgical bodies, the AMA and the private hospital sector is bringing back all Category 2 and some Category 3 surgeries.
That includes IVF procedures, post-cancer procedures (like breast reconstructions) joint replacements like knee, hip and shoulder reconstructions, denture fittings and fillings, eye procedures like cataract surgery and endoscopies — such as colonoscopies and gastroscopies.  It also includes all procedures for anyone under the age of 18.
Priority will be given to procedures that are classed as low risk but high reward, or those procedures that are unlikely to spread coronavirus to clinicians, but will hugely benefit patients.
Those surgeries will start again as early as April 27 in all states and territories, and the decision will be reviewed on May 11. READ MORE

April 21: Telehealth funding expansion

The Federal Government has announced the expansion of telehealth funding so practice nurses can provide ongoing care to chronic disease patients during COVID-19.
In the telehealth changes, videoconferencing and telephone services by practice nurses and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health practitioners will now be funded items through the MBS, mirroring items 10987 and 10997. Read more MBS Online, Search MBS and Item 10987

April 20: Telehealth updates

Victorian public health services delivering clinical services via telehealth should use the Healthdirect Video Call wherever possible, as the preferred telehealth application. Primary and community based health services with access to Healthdirect Video Call should also use this platform for the delivery of essential services via telehealth. The department is currently investigating options to expand Healthdirect Video Call services to community based health services.
If access to Healthdirect Video Call is not possible, healthcare providers should use one of the following video conferencing systems which are listed in order of security level preference:
1. Microsoft Teams
2. Skype for Business
3. Google Meet
4. CISCO Webex or Jabber
5. VIMED Teledoc (Victorian Stroke Telemedicine program)
6. Zoom

MORE INFORMATION

April 17: Victorian government updates

FULL DETAILS HERE

  • Clinicians are advised to only test patients who meet the clinical testing criteria. There should be no exceptions.
  • Doctors requesting COVID-19 testing are asked to ensure that a current contact phone number for the patient is included on all pathology request forms.
  • Healthcare workers and other frontline employees will be able to have their test results returned faster. Specimens taken from health care workers should be marked: URGENT- Health Care Worker
  • Encourage patients to continue to proactively manage chronic illnesses, take routine tests and attend health services.
  • Remind patients in at-risk groups of the importance of being tested if they have symptoms of coronavirus
  • Advise patients that smoking may increase the severity of symptoms if they contract coronavirus.
  • Be aware of the increased risk for family violence during this difficult time.
  • Look for signs of mental distress in your patients.

Commonwealth government updates

FULL DETAILS HERE

  • Australia now has a daily infection growth rate of less than two per cent, further evidence that the country is succeeding in “flattening the curve”.
  • Since March 13 and the rapid expansion of MBS telehealth, more than 3.5 million consultations have been administered to over 2.5 million patients.
  • Good progress is also being made with establishing GP-led respiratory clinics around the country, with 25 now open. In western Victoria we currently have two that are operating in Ballarat and Geelong.
  • The Australian Government is working to minimise the exposure of Coronavirus to remote and very remote communities. Access to these communities has been restricted to protect community members from the spread of Coronavirus.
  • The Australian Government is working to establish a dedicated mental well being platform for health care workers.  In the meantime, a range of resources, some great tips and ways to connect if you feel like you might want to chat can be found here Head to Health

April 15: New testing clinic in Ballarat

A new COVID-19 testing clinic has been established in Ballarat.  The new clinic, in Lucas Community Hub, was established to take the pressure off Ballarat’s existing health services.
UFS Medical has partnered with the City of Ballarat to facilitate the new COVID-19 testing site.
The temporary testing facility operates from Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm.  Importantly, the clinic will not be a walk-up facility.
Appointments must be made and everyone attending the centre for testing must have a referral from their GP. Testing is only available to people who meet the government’s current criteria for testing.  COVID-19 hotline 03 43 11 15 71

April 14: Testing criteria in Victoria expanded

  • Testing criteria has been expanded to include all people with consistent clinical symptoms. This will assist in finding cases that are being transmitted in the community to prevent community spread. More details are available from the Department of Health and Human Services website.
  • Doctors who are requesting COVID-19 testing are reminded to ensure that a current contact phone number for the patient is included on all pathology request forms.
  • The State of Emergency in Victoria has been extended for a further four weeks until 11 May. This means activity restrictions and restrictions on access to care facilities remain in place. Read more on the Department of Health and Human Services website.
  • Electronic prescribing has been fast-tracked. Work to upgrade healthcare providers’ clinical software is under way and is expected to be ready by May 2020. More information
  • A COVID-19 response update to General Practitioners on Palliative Care webinar will be held on Thursday 16 April. Register here

Mental health support

  • The Federal Government has announced the establishment of a free Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service, developed by Beyond Blue. The new service will address the growing mental health impact of the pandemic, including fear about the virus, financial stress, family stress, anxiety and loneliness. Read the Health Minister’s media release for more details
  • The Victorian Government has also announced additional funding for mental health services including the roll out of 170 extra youth and adult acute mental health beds. Read the media release 

April 8: Preparing for telehealth

Register for an online session on how to prepare for and implement telehealth: critical success factors for clinicians,  hosted by the Digital Health CRC in collaboration with La Trobe University and Curtin University.
When: Thursday 9 April, 6-7.30pm AEST (including Q&A)  REGISTER NOW

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that we have had to step away from ‘business as usual’ in primary care and find alternative ways to share information and communicate.
In this webinar, Australian GP Dr Amandeep Hansra and UK GP Dr David Triska will share their experiences of implementing telehealth (phone, online and video consultations) and provide practical tips and advice based on their first-hand experiences.
This session is aimed at clinicians and will cover a range of issues related to preparing for and implementing telehealth, including:

  • Engaging with staff and patients
  • Redesigning workflow
  • Potential modalities
  • Overcoming challenges
  • Tools and technology, and
  • Lessons learned

April 7: COVID-19 information sessions

Project ECHO – COVID-19

WVPHN is coordinating an expert panel, facilitated by University of Melbourne, Department of General Practice/Melbourne Medical School to present weekly echo sessions on the topic of COVID-19. The expert panel will be comprised of various clinicians across the region, dependent on the topic of discussion each week.
These online sessions are broadcast to registered participants throughout western Victoria and will be weekly sessions commencing this Thursday (9 April) 7.30am to 8.30am.
Aims of sessions:

  • Raise awareness of regional planning in regards testing, assessment and treatment services
  • Enable Primary care to better understand referral pathways both now and into the future as new services emerge in response to regional planning at the local, state and commonwealth level
  • Q&A

Content of the sessions will be based on response to current climate/happenings each week, by pre-submitted questions and/or feedback from participants. If you have a question you would like the panel to answer in the ECHO session, please complete the questions field on the Project ECHO page. Please note your questions may not be answered in the upcoming session, but may be answered in the following ECHO session. REGISTER HERE

COVID-19 Rural and Response series

RDAA and ACRRM are pleased to kick off their first webinar in the COVID-19 Rural and Response series at 8pm Tuesday 7 April 2020. The panel includes ABC’s Dr Norman Swan, ACRRM President Dr Ewen McPhee and RDAA President Dr John Hall and they will discuss all things COVID-19 from a rural and remote perspective. There will be brief presentations and then plenty of time for Q&A with the audience. REGISTER
RDAA and ACCRM plan to host a webinar at the same time 8pm Tuesday each week.

April 6: Victorian government latest

  • See the Victorian COVID-19 website for updated case definition and testing recommendations as well as Chief Health Officer updates.
  • Up-to-date epidemiological data is also now available on the department website.
  • Victoria’s testing criteria for COVID-19 have changed, effective immediately.
  • Doctors who are requesting COVID-19 testing are asked to ensure that a current contact phone number for the patient is included on all pathology request forms.
  • Advise all patients who have clinical symptoms but do not meet the testing criteria to remain home and not attend work, school or any public places until symptoms have completely resolved.

April 3: Flu vaccination update

Victorian pharmacists can now administer approved vaccinations outside of their normal location – through the mobile and outreach services of a hospital, pharmacy or pharmacy depot, increasing access to immunisations for all Victorians.  Appropriately trained pharmacists can now administer the flu shot to children 10 years of age and older. READ MORE

April 2: We want to know the impacts on your service

If you are experiencing changed service delivery due to COVID-19, send details to HealthPathways Western Victoria PHN by emailing healthpathways@westvicphn.com.au for the information to be displayed on the COVID-19 Impact on Local Services  page. This provides updated information to hundreds of GPs and other health professionals across western Victoria to encourage appropriate referrals to be sent during this period.

April 1: Victorian government COVID-19 dashboard

The state government has a daily report of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Victoria. Charts and figures provide a cumulative count of cases and a breakdown of those cases by age, sex, mode of acquisition and residential location. READ MORE

Psychosocial supports

On 29 March 2020, the Australian Government announced a $74 million Mental Health Support Package for people experiencing the impacts of this pandemic. This package includes $28.4 million to continue transition support for remaining psychosocial clients under the National Psychosocial Support –Transition initiative to the National Disability Insurance Scheme or to Continuity of Support arrangements. A link to the announcement is HERE

Funding to support psychosocial clients will continue to be provided to PHNs for services from 1 July 2020 until 30 June 2021. The Department will work with PHNs on the details of individual funding arrangements in due course.

March 31: Government updates

The Australian Government has approved a number of temporary changes to medicines regulation to ensure Australians can continue to access the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines they need, as the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds. READ MORE

The Australian Government has partnered with the private hospital sector to ensure the full resources of our health system, are ready and focused on treating patients as required, through the coronavirus pandemic. READ MORE

March 30: New COVID-19 Telehealth MBS items

From 30 March 2020, telehealth (video-conference) and phone consultation items are available to all Australians. This is stage 4 of the COVID-19 response.

The schedule fees for the bulk billing incentive items have been increased, to encourage medical practitioners to provide bulk-billed services to vulnerable patient groups. Bulk-billing incentives items are available for medical services (items 10990, 10991 and 10992), diagnostic imaging services (items 64990 and 64991) and pathology services (74990 and 74991) for patients who are either under 16 years old, or who are a Commonwealth concessional beneficiary.

For further information see MBS – New COVID-19 Telehealth MBS Items

Or visit our Health Pathways COVID-19 page – westvic.healthpathways.org.au

March 27: Ballarat Goldfields General Practitioner COVID-19 Community of Practice

In response to the emergent COVID-19 pandemic situation and the identified needs of practitioners in our local medical community, Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) is facilitating an online COVID-19 Community of Practice (CoP) for General Practitioners in the Ballarat Goldfields region. Local GP, Dr Eli Cowling will moderate this CoP.
WVPHN will also be looking to set up similar platforms in other western Victoria regions and these will be announced soon.

The purpose of the CoP is to support clinicians to network and connect with each other. It will also provide a forum to share information about region-specific issues, responses, strategies and supports with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The CoP is not designed to provide clinical advice regarding COVID-19 assessment or management.
The COVID-19 CoP will be hosted on the online platform Basecamp and is a temporary measure and will only be operational whilst the current pandemic response is underway.
To join the COVID-19 Ballarat Goldfields CoP, please email qi@westvicphn.com.au and provide your name, practice and location.

Victorian government issues new orders for medications

Pharmacists can supply prescription medications without a prescription for one month in emergency circumstances except for Schedule 8 medicines.
Doctors prescribing Schedule 8 medicines for non-drug dependent patients will not be required to apply for a Schedule 8 treatment permit for the next six months, but instead check SafeScript.
Practitioners will need to apply for Schedule 8 treatment permits for drug dependent patients, including opioid replacement therapy. READ MORE

March 26: Important notice to all GPs from DHHS

ALL doctors requesting COVID-19 testing must provide a patient mobile number on the pathology slip. GPs should also indicate on the form if the patient is a health or aged care worker in order to expedite their test result.
The Department of Health and Human Services is working towards automating systems as much as possible and this is an important step.

Today’s updates on COVID-19

  • Victoria recorded its first two deaths of coronavirus overnight.
  • There are 520 COVID-19 cases in Victoria.
  • The Commonwealth government announced an expansion of coronavirus testing criteria. READ MORE
  • Temporary suspension of all semi-urgent elective surgery across the nation.
  • National Cabinet will consider the need for any further measures at their next meeting on Friday 27 March 2020.

March 25: Invitation – Mental Health Practitioners COVID-19 Response Webinar today

The Department of Health is holding a webinar for Mental Health Practitioners today (Wednesday, 25 March) from 11:00 to 11:30am (Canberra time).

The webinar will provide an update specific to Mental Health Practitioners on telehealth items and answer questions. Questions can be submitted ahead of the webinar via email to PrimaryCareImplementationGroup@health.gov.au. There will also be limited opportunities to post questions during the webinar.

Professor Michael Kidd will be joined by the CEO of the National Mental Health Commission Christine Morgan, and First Assistant Secretary of the Mental Health Division at the Department of Health Mark Roddam.

The link for the webinar is – https://publish.viostream.com/app/s-n3tkg5k

COVID-19 Latest update from Victorian Chief Health Officer (24 March)

Notification is required, by telephone, for all confirmed cases via 1300 651 160, immediately 24 hours per day.

From 9pm 20 March 2020, any Australians returning from any country outside Australia should now be considered at risk and are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

All close contacts of confirmed cases will be contacted by the department and told to home quarantine for 14 days.

Any healthcare or residential aged care worker with a fever or respiratory symptoms should be tested.

Additional PPE and testing equipment is due to arrive in the coming weeks. READ MORE

March 24: WorkSafe item codes for telehealth

WorkSafe is introducing temporary measures to support the continuation of essential health services for injured workers as part of COVID-19 response.

WorkSafe will introduce temporary item codes to allow medical practitioners, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, exercise physiologists, psychologists and accredited mental health social workers to deliver services via telehealth. A fee schedule of the available item numbers will be located on WorkSafe website and Claims Manual in the coming days.

More WorkSafe Telehealth information.

WVPHN HealthPathways

Western Victoria PHN HealthPathways has excellent and up to date information on the coronavirus for general practitioners. Sections covered include:

  • COVID-19 Practice Preparation
  • COVID-19 Assessment and Management
  • COVID-19 Referrals and Referral Advice
  • COVID-19 Information
  • COVID-19 Impact on Local Services
  • COVID-19 Recent Changes

Go to: westvic.healthpathways.org.au

Or watch this recently produced HealthPathways video

March 23: Expansion of telehealth services

From today (Monday 23 March) the Government will allow all vulnerable general practitioners and other vulnerable health professionals who are currently authorised to use telehealth item numbers, to use telehealth for all consultations with all their patients.  READ MORE

Our planning in response to government announcements

Western Victoria Primary Health Network (WVPHN) is responding to government COVID-19 announcements on the weekend.

From COB today (Monday 23 March) WVPHN will be running virtual offices, with all of our staff working from home. For all our stakeholders it remains business as usual.  Staff will continue to connect with health care providers directly via phone or email. Staff can also be contacted as normal by phone, mobile or email.

Health care providers can continue ordering masks by filling in the online form. Please note that this is the preferred way of ordering masks as we cannot guarantee phones will be constantly staffed (although we will do our very best).
Masks will continue being delivered to GP Practices and pharmacies via courier – please do not come to our offices.

As you would be aware we have had a HealthPathways clinical page on COVID-19 for some time and it is being kept up to date on a daily basis. The page has been developed by clinical editor Dr Kate Graham and is now being used as the exemplar page for the state. It strictly follows DHHS advice.

We will continue to communicate with you via this page and if we need to get urgent information to you quickly, we will send out specific health alerts and advice to all stakeholders directly.

With regards to pandemic emergency planning – we continue to work with GPs and key personnel and the health services to develop and implement strategies to assist health care providers and communities during this emergency. Key providers such as headspace are at the forefront of this planning.

We continue to advise the state and federal governments on the situation in western Victoria and work to implement supports and assistance for GPs where possible.  As part of this advice and planning two priority respiratory clinics are in development (one in Geelong and one in Ballarat) – contracts have been provided to the clinics and we will support ‘standing them up’ over the next week.

More advice via an updated Health Alert will be emailed to GPs, practice staff and other health care providers this afternoon.

March 22:  Latest advice on COVID-19 testing from Victorian Chief Medical Officer

New testing criteria (as of Saturday 21 March 2020) READ MORE

People without symptoms should not be tested.

Patients who meet at least one clinical AND at least one epidemiological criteria should be tested.

Clinical criteria:
Fever *
OR
Acute respiratory infection (for example, shortness of breath, cough, sore throat)

Epidemiological criteria for testing:

  • Travellers from overseas with onset of symptoms within 14 days of return or;
  • Close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases with onset of symptoms within 14 days of last contact or;
  • Healthcare workers and residential aged care workers meeting clinical criteria or;
  • Aged and residential care residents meeting clinical criteria or;
  • Patients who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people meeting clinical criteria
  • * >38 degrees, without another immediately apparent cause such as urinary tract infection or cellulitis

The following patients should also be tested:

  • Patients admitted to hospital with acute respiratory tract infection AND fever*
  • Only confirmed cases should be notified. A confirmed case is a person who tests positive to a validated SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test or has the virus identified by electron microscopy or viral culture.

Advice on the use of ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories

There have been some concerns internationally that use of ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, during COVID-19 infection may lead to an increased risk of complications or death.

There is insufficient high-quality evidence currently available to recommend ceasing use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories during COVID-19 infection. Further advice will be provided as further evidence becomes available.

Webinar on using telehealth

COVID-19 and digital technology: The roles, relevance and risks of using telehealth in a crisis
Set against the backdrop of the current COVID-19 crisis, the webinar panellists will discuss the role telehealth can play in primary and secondary care. The panel will present practical strategies for healthcare professionals and outline the risks and rewards of telehealth for practitioners and patients alike.
The Digital Health CRC in collaboration with Curtin University and La Trobe University is delivering a webinar on Tuesday 24 March 6.00pm-7.20pm AEDT
To register and for further information including Key Topics and panelists HERE

March 20: Health and aged care sectors

Department of Health information and advice on COVID-19 for the health and aged care sectors. READ MORE

March 19: News In Brief

  • Testing is ONLY for patients who meet the strict case definition
  • General Practitioners are encouraged to undertake initial screening by phone or in person for people who are well to identify those who require testing.
  • More hospital beds are coming online over the next 12 weeks including 84 beds at the old Peter Mac Hospital, 45 beds at Bendigo Health and 140 new beds at Casey Hospital. Baxter House in Geelong will be recommissioned with consulting rooms and virus clinic capacity at Barwon Health.
  • Pharmacists are being told to dispense only one month’s worth of prescription medicines and limit the purchase of some over-the-counter products from today.

Updated clinical resources

Western Victoria PHN HealthPathways on the COVID-19 was the first clinical pathway to be developed worldwide on the topic and has now been adopted across the state of Victoria. It provides a continually updated, single reference point with collated links to all information and resources from key bodies and interprets the guidelines in a way that is clear and relevant for the primary care setting.
HealthPathways is a web-based information portal for health professionals in primary care and contains over 700 clinical, referral and resource pathways.
Access is available to all health professionals. Contact healthpathways@westvicphn.com.au for access or further information.

March 18: New resources for practices

Western Victoria’s primary health care sector is playing a vital role in helping contain the current COVID-19 outbreak and Western Victoria PHN is committed to delivering accurate and up-to-date information and resources to help our health service providers. We have developed a number of resources for practice staff to use and these are downloadable from our website.

Latest from the government

Twenty-seven new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed yesterday – bringing the total number of cases in Victoria to 121.
The new cases include 14 men and 13 women, with people aged from late teens to early seventies. The Department of Health and Human Services is continuing to investigate all new cases.
At the present time, there are two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Victoria that may have been acquired through community transmission. Currently six people are recovering in hospital. More than 15,200 Victorians have been tested to date.  READ MORE

Mental Health resources available:

Mental health resources from Life and Mind

Mental health resources from Beyond Blue

March 17: COVID-19 latest updates

  • Screening clinics are up and running in Victoria. In western Victoria clinics are located at Ballarat Base Hospital and University Hospital in Geelong.
  • As of 0930 16 March 2020, Victoria has 71 total confirmed cases, and no deaths.
  • There is a significant shortage of swabs and reagent kits for COVID-19 testing.
  • It is critical that clinicians limit testing to patients who meet the suspected case definition and use only one swab when testing.
  • Please provide clinical details on request slips so high-risk patients and healthcare workers can be prioritised.

March 16: Today’s updates

State of Emergency declared by Victorian Premier

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has declared a state of emergency in Victoria, effective from 12:00pm today for four weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The state of emergency imposed under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act could be extended.
It includes mandatory 14 day self-quarantine for all returning travellers, and it would be an offence not to comply with the orders that had been made.
It also imposed the cancellation of mass gatherings of more than 500 people.  READ MORE

New updated information

Updated information sheet for health care and residential aged care workers about coronavirus (COVID-19). READ MORE

March 15: Urgent advice from Victorian Chief Health Officer

Appropriate use of pathology swabs for COVID-19 testing

There is currently a significant shortage of swabs for COVID-19 testing. As a result, it is critical that testing is limited to patients who meet the suspected case definition. This was recently revised by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia, and has been tightened to reflect this issue.
To be tested, it is important that patients fall into one of the three categories of suspected case below:

  • Patients who have clinical and epidemiological criteria, which means: fever or acute respiratory infection AND international travel in the 14 days before onset of illness, or close contact in the 14 days before illness onset with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Please note that casual contact is no longer a trigger for testing.
  • Patients who have severe community-acquired pneumonia (who are critically ill) and no other cause is identified, with or without recent international travel.
  • Patient is a healthcare worker with direct patient contact who has a fever (≥ 37.5) AND an acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath, cough, sore throat).

Please do not test outside these suspected case categories.
Furthermore, please note when taking specimens:

  • Only one swab is now required for both nostrils and throat for each patient (i.e. a total of one swab per patient).
  • Please avoid doubling up and sending swabs to both private laboratories and the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) concurrently – testing is only required to be sent to your usual laboratory.
  • Please write clearly on the specimen request if the patient is a healthcare worker – mark the specimen request Urgent – Healthcare Worker.

To further assist with this issue, assessment centres will only receive a limited number of swabs in the coming days, to ration the remaining supply.

For further information go to the DHHS website

March 14: Latest Victorian health alerts

There are now 49 cases of coronavirus in Victoria and the government has announced that it will be moving away from reporting exposure sites.  READ MORE

New resources on aged care COVID-19 preparedness

The In Home and Community Aged Care COVID-19 Preparedness Webinar, held on Friday 13 March 2020, is now available for on demand viewing.
The webinar addressed the role and capacity of home care providers, Community Home Support Program providers and the assessment workforce as part of the national response to COVID-19.

March 13: New MBS items announced

The Commonwealth government has announced new MBS items to combat the coronavirus including:

  • Bulk-billed video-conference consultation services, which can be provided by GPs, specialists, consultant physicians, consultant psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and allied mental health workers for certain vulnerable people;
  • Bulk-billed telephone consultations services which can be provided by GPs for certain vulnerable people
  • Bulk-billed pathology services where a medical practitioner has requested a test for SARS-CoV-2 under a new item; and
  • Bulk-billed pathology services for a pathologist to test for SARS-CoV-2 and relevant respiratory viruses, if the treating practitioner did not request them.  READ MORE

First community transmission for COVID-19

Nine new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed yesterday – bringing the total number of cases in Victoria to 36. This includes Victoria’s first recorded case of community transmission.
The new cases include 6 men and 3 women aged between 20-70. All cases are recovering at home in isolation. Of the 9 new cases, 7 have a history of international travel. Case interviews are still being completed with some cases.
One case has no history of travel or contact with a confirmed case – the first case of community transmission. READ MORE

COVID-19 hotlines for community

If a member of the community feels they have coronavirus symptoms and wishes to speak to someone about they can ring:
Department of Health and Human Services Hotline: 1800 675 398 (Nurse on Call)
Department of Health Hotline: 1800 022 222 (Nurse on Call)
Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080
Online coronavirus symptom checker: HERE

Latest update from the Victorian Chief Health Officer

The Victorian Chief Health Officer has confirmed 27 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and released an updated list of exposure sites which includes several sites in the western Victoria region. Please note, notification of suspected cases to the state department is now only required for healthcare workers and residential aged care workers or residents. Notification is no longer required for all other suspected cases.  READ MORE

March 12: Distribution of masks update

Please note: GP practices and community pharmacies in the Western Victorian PHN catchment region can request the supply of surgical masks. P2 masks are also available for general practices, and community pharmacies (with high risk populations) only.  If you wish to order mask types, please fill out the online request form.

New information released

The Australian government has released a collection of resources for the general public, health professionals and industry outlining a range of funding measures the Australian Government is taking to combat coronavirus (COVID-19).  READ MORE

WVPHN HealthPathways – For localised COVID-19 clinical guidelines for western Victoria primary health care providers go HERE

11 March: First confirmed case of coronavirus in western Victoria

Geelong’s first novel coronavirus case has been confirmed by the health department, after a young woman who recently returned from the US was diagnosed with COVID-19. She was aboard UA0600 from San Francisco.

Authorities are warning shoppers to be vigilant, following the woman in her 20s working two shifts at the Coles Waurn Ponds supermarket after becoming unwell.

Contact tracing by the health department has deemed the supermarket, between the hours of 8.45am and 5pm on Friday, March 6 and 1pm and 6pm on Saturday, March 7, a public exposure site.
The woman is the state’s 20th confirmed coronavirus case, and was one of three confirmed cases in Victoria announced Wednesday 11 March.

The health department was contacting her close contacts, who will self-isolate for 14 days.

Barwon Health sets up isolation zone

Barwon Health has established an isolated zone for people requiring tests for COVID-19 as more people seek treatment at University hospital’s emergency department.

The newly-implemented area, set up this week, is currently within the emergency department precinct.

But Barwon Health is reminding concerned residents that GPs are able to assist patients, helping ease demand being placed on the hospital. READ MORE

GP Refresher 2020 cancelled

After some consideration and advice from infectious disease specialists, current government health advice and the increasing infection rates of coronavirus into the Victorian community, Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) management has decided to cancel the GP Refresher 2020 event (14 and 15 March).

General practitioners are at the front line of primary care and their work is extremely important in containing COVID-19. We have made the decision because we cannot afford to, in any way, potentially compromise the health of GPs by cross infection via such a large event.

Many other health care services including hospitals and peak bodies are already cancelling similar events.

WVPHN will instead look at the possibility of producing some webinars by the speakers who were scheduled to present at the Refresher and have those available online. We will advise of these arrangements later in the year.

We are currently in the process of advising delegates, speakers, sponsors and others attending or involved in the event, of our decision.

Latest updates for health services and general practitioners
Victorian government latest guidelines for testing, treating and containing COVID-19 HERE

WVPHN HealthPathways provides localised COVID-19 guidelines for primary health care providers HERE

10 March:  Victorian pandemic plan released

The Victorian government has released its COVID-19 pandemic plan. DOWNLOAD HERE

The response is guided by the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the pandemic response plans of other jurisdictions.
These principles ensure the response is:

  • Flexible and proportionate, and can be scaled up or down as required
  • Reliant on existing health systems and health system governance where possible
  • Inclusive of all Victorians and acts to reduce any form of xenophobia in the response
  • Focused on protecting vulnerable Victorians, including with underlying health conditions, compromised immune systems, the elderly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • Integrated with the efforts of the Commonwealth, other states and territories and relevant public agencies and sectors to make best use of common systems, plans and processes.

9 March:  Victorian Chief Health Officer update

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 taking the total of cases in Victoria to 15. READ MORE

If you require further information call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.

RESOURCE REMINDER: The Western Victoria Health Pathway on the COVID-19 was the first clinical Health Pathway to be developed worldwide on the topic and has now been adopted across the state of Victoria. It provides a continually updated, single reference point with collated links to all information and resources from key bodies and interprets the guidelines in a way that is clear and relevant for the primary care setting.
HealthPathways is a web-based information portal for health professionals in primary care and contains over 700 clinical, referral and resource pathways.
Access is available to all health professionals. Contact healthpathways@westvicphn.com.au for access or further information.

7 March: Eleventh case of coronavirus in Victoria

A new case of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been confirmed in Victoria – bringing to 11 the total number of cases.
The latest case is a man from Toorak in his 70s who displayed mild symptoms on a flight from the United States. He is now recovering in home isolation. READ MORE

The Department of Health and Human Services is working with Federal authorities to obtain the passenger manifest from flight UA0060. Passengers on that flight will be notified as soon as their information is made available.
They can also call the Department of Health and Human Services hotline for information on COVID-19 on 1800 675 398.

6 March: Latest updates

For the latest advice, information and resources, go to www.health.gov.au
Your primary source of COVID-19 information specific to Victoria is www.dhhs.vic.gov.au
Subscribe to the alerts from the Victorian Chief Health Office
If you require further information you can also call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.

5 March: Updated advice from the government

The Commonwealth Government today introduced new travel restrictions, updated travel advice and implemented new screening measures as part of the Government’s coordinated measures to protect Australians from COVID-19  READ MORE

REMINDER: MASKS AVAILABLE

The following masks are available through Western Victoria PHN

  • Surgical masks and P2 masks for General Practices
  • Surgical masks only for Pharmacies

If you require masks please call the appropriate phone number below. Masks will be delivered by WVPHN.

  • Ballarat Goldfields call: 03 5331 6303
  • Geelong Otway and Wimmera Grampians call: 03 5222 0800
  • Great South Coast call 03 5564 5888

4 March: Latest updates

Commonwealth Minister for Health Media Release  Increased restrictions for people who have travelled to Iran

Victorian Chief Health Officer – Health Alert  Key messages and Recommendations

3 March: urgent COVID-19 guidelines issued

We draw your attention to urgent guidelines issued last night now requiring quarantine – including for health care workers if the worker has travelled to Iran, South Korea, Italy or mainland China in the previous 14 days (page 13 of the linked guidelines). See Guidelines for Health Services and GPs
A Chief Health Officer alert has also highlighted this new and urgent advice

Please ensure your health service is subscribed to CHO Alerts, by clicking on the subscribe tab at the webpage

Updated information is also included in Western Victoria PHN HealthPathways

2 March: New updates on our HealthPathways COVID-19 pages

Key HealthPathways updates include:

  • isolation criteria for Iran and the inclusion of Italy and Cambodia in travel warnings
  • briefing relating to non-attendance at work for travellers returning from Italy and South Korea
  • confirmation that the requirement to take blood is not essential for COVID-19 and GPs can do testing in their clinics with nose and throat swabs only

28 February: Prime Minister announcement

The Prime Minister has announced Australia is activating an emergency plan to deal with the outbreak of the coronavirus. The scope of the emergency response will be escalated according to the spread of the disease. Link to the Emergency Response Plan.

27 February: Updates on COVID-19

  • Western Victoria PHN HealthPathways NEW page on the COVID-19: HERE
  • Latest advice from the Department of Health (Australia)
  • Latest advice from DHHS (Victoria)
  • Information on international travel restrictions: HERE
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria) has established a telephone hotline for doctors who are reporting a potential case of COVID-19: 1300 651 160.

REMINDER: In recognition that some GPs may wish to collect COVID-19 specimens in their surgery, the Commonwealth Department of Health will be distributing more P2 masks via Primary Health Networks to enable GPs to access the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment for this purpose.  These P2 masks are only for distribution to GPs who have indicated they are undertaking the specimen collection process in their surgeries.  Contact for masks remains the same –  Ballarat Goldfields call: 03 5331 6303Geelong Otway call: 03 5222 0800Wimmera Grampians call: 03 5222 0800Great South Coast call 03 5564 5888.  Masks can then be either collected from WVPHN or they will be delivered to your practice.

25 February: Latest from Victorian Chief Health Officer

KEY MESSAGES:

  • Be alert for cases, take a travel history and advise persons under investigation and suspected cases to isolate until you provide the result to your patient.
  • People who have been in mainland China (excluding Macau and Taiwan) in the past 14 days are advised to self-isolate until 14 days after leaving China.
  • There is no requirement for people from the other countries recommended for testing to self-isolate if they are well.
  • Anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should also stay at home and avoid public settings until 14 days after their last contact.
  • There are now 7 confirmed cases in Victoria, including the three Diamond Princess passengers.
  • The list of countries that it is recommended that clinicians consider when testing people with a clinically compatible illness who have travelled has been expanded to include South Korea and Iran. Other countries are Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.
  • Cases meeting the suspected case definition must be tested and notified to the department as soon as practicable by calling 1300 651 160, 24 hours a day.
  • Cases meeting the ‘Person under Investigation’ case definition are now recommended for testing. Notification to the department is not necessary for these patients.
  • Clinicians may choose to test any patient, particularly returned travellers with acute respiratory infection if it is felt to be clinically necessary. Notification to the department is not necessary for these patients.
  • Stay informed of updates

25 February: Minister announcement

Health Minister Greg Hunt has urged Australians to exercise a “high degree of caution” if planning to travel to Japan or South Korea, in the wake of increasing cases of coronavirus in the region.
Currently the number of cases of COVID-19 rises to more than 700 in Japan and more than 600 in South Korea, with at least six deaths.
Minister Hunt announced the Level 2 travel advisories for the two countries on Monday, as 47 cases of the virus among Australians were confirmed among passengers on the cruise ship the Diamond Princess, quarantined in Yokohama.

21 February: Links for updates on COVID-19

LATEST UPDATE: In recognition that some GPs may wish to collect COVID-19 specimens in their surgery, the Commonwealth Department of Health will be distributing more P2 masks via Primary Health Networks to enable GPs to access the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment for this purpose.  These P2 masks are only for distribution to GPs who have indicated they are undertaking the specimen collection process in their surgeries.  Contact for masks remains the same –  Ballarat Goldfields call: 03 5331 6303Geelong Otway call: 03 5222 0800Wimmera Grampians call: 03 5222 0800Great South Coast call 03 5564 5888.  Masks can then be either collected from WVPHN or they will be delivered to your practice.

18 February: HealthPathways and COVID-19

The Western Victoria Health Pathway on the COVID-19 was the first clinical Health Pathway to be developed worldwide on the topic and has now been adopted across the state of Victoria. It provides a continually updated, single reference point with collated links to all information and resources from key bodies and interprets the guidelines in a way that is clear and relevant for the primary care setting.
HealthPathways is a web-based information portal for health professionals in primary care and contains over 700 clinical, referral and resource pathways.
Access is available to all health professionals. Contact healthpathways@westvicphn.com.au for access or further information.

14 February: Masks available for pharmacies

All PHNs are now distributing surgical masks to community Pharmacists.  Extra supplies of surgical masks to PHNs are being targeted for distribution and use by General Practitioners (GPs) and health workers as ‘first responders’ and community Pharmacists who are exposed to at risk customers . GPs and Pharmacists in western Victoria need to lodge their requests with Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN). These masks can then be either picked up or WVPHN will organize delivery.

For pharmacies in Ballarat Goldfields call: 03 5331 6303; for pharmacies in Geelong Otway call: 03 5222 0800; for pharmacies in Wimmera Grampians call: 03 5222 0800; for pharmacies in Great South Coast call 03 5564 5888.

13 February: Updated information

Information for health care providers and the general public

This link contains the following information and updates

  • Should I wear a mask? How do I get a mask?
  • Suspected and confirmed cases
  • Information for health care workers
  • Pathology specimen collectors
  • How can I help prevent the spread of COVID19
  • More information

10 February: Factsheets and other resources

The Australian Government Department of Health has updated advice for health workers regarding the novel coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China (2019-nCoV).

There are a number of factsheets for health care workers including use of Personal Protective Equipment during clinical care of people with suspected or confirmed 2019-nCoV infection.  There is also information aimed at patients plus additional resources such as posters. HERE

Please note that as this is an evolving situation, these documents may be updated in the coming days and weeks.

7 February: Department of Health and Human Services update

The Department of Health and Human Services has produced a checklist of key actions practices can take now to safely assess a patient who may have novel coronavirus infection. A suggested checklist is available in a quick guide and in a more detailed guideline on the Department’s novel coronavirus website at HERE  Also available are posters for the waiting room and factsheets for patients in English and Chinese.
The international outbreak is evolving rapidly and the Department is working closely with the Victorian health sector, Commonwealth and international agencies to respond to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) associated with mainland China.
Any urgent feedback from general practitioners and primary care providers is welcomed and should be sent to infectious.diseases@dhhs.vic.gov.au

For continuing updates go to:
Twitter @VicGovDHHS
Twitter @VictorianCHO
facebook.com/VicGovDHHS/

Better Health Channel:
Twitter @BetterHealthGov
facebook.com/BetterHealthGov

Further information
As further information becomes available, it will be shared on our channels and our DHHS incident page at 2019-nCoV incident page
This site includes printable factsheets, posters and translated material.
Access the latest Chief Health Officer Alert for more information or subscribe to CHO Alerts

Invitation to webinar for GPs and practice staff

The Department of Health and Human Services has scheduled two education events on the Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) – practical measures for general practice staff for next week on 13 February, one of which is via webinar.  GPs and practice staff are invited to attend. Here is the link for registration – Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) – practical measures for general practice staff – Webinar

5 February: Instructional videos

The team at Banksia Medical Centre in Newcomb Geelong, has produced a few videos for other GPs to actually visualise the flow of events needed if a patient presents with flu-like, respiratory symptoms and a suspected coronavirus infection (travel history, contact with someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus). Thanks Banksia.

Workflow on how to manage patient showing up at the clinic and PPE: HERE

How to properly sanitize with alcohol hand gel: HERE

How to put on and remove a surgical mask: HERE

4 February: Instructions for GPs

The Department of Health and Human Services is asking health professionals across the sector to watch out for signs and symptoms of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection in patients who may have travelled to areas affected by an emerging outbreak. More information.

Further up-to-date information on WVPHN HealthPathways on the new Novel Coronavirus page

Call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 for questions regarding prevention and the spread of coronavirus.

3 February: Now available P2/N95 and surgical masks

GPs and health care workers are advised Western Victoria PHN now has P2/N95 masks available for distribution.

  • GP practices can contact Western Victoria PHN offices to request surgical and/or P2/N95 masks for their practice.  For practices in Ballarat Goldfields call: 03 5331 6303; for practices in Geelong Otway call: 03 5222 0800; for practices in Wimmera Grampians call: 03 5222 0800; for practices in Great South Coast call 03 5564 5888.  Masks will then be delivered to your practice.

Masks to be distributed

  • Masks are now being sorted for delivery to our offices in Geelong, Ballarat, Horsham and Warrnambool.
  • Distribution is by identified need. The department has defined ‘identified need’ as practices within communities with high Chinese populations and with individuals who have recently travelled to China or had visitors from China (travel history); patients who have been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case of the coronavirus and practices that have patients presenting with flu-like symptoms.
  • The Commonwealth has advised the distribution of masks is to:
    – GP and practices (for clinicians and symptomatic patients – when they present to the practice)
    – Health workers
    – NB: Not for pharmacists, specialist clinic staff, etc

GP advice


HEALTH ALERT
UPDATE (30 January):

From: Chief Health Officer
Date issued: 29 January 2020
Issued by: Dr Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer
Issued to: Clinicians and patients

Key messages

A novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak has been identified, focused on Hubei Province in mainland China. Please see the departmental website for regular updates: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/novelcoronavirus

The department is now advising all people who have visited Hubei province in mainland China to stay at home and avoid public settings until 14 days after leaving Hubei Province. Anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of 2019-nCoV should also stay at home and avoid public settings until 14 days after their last contact.

The department was has now confirmed two cases of novel coronavirus in Victoria, including one man in his 50s notified on 25 January and a second case in a man in his 60s confirmed on 28 January.

The second confirmed case attended a restaurant dinner at the House of Delight restaurant in Glen Waverley between 1730 and 1900 on 26 January 2020. Anyone who was at the restaurant at that time should contact the department on 1300 651 160. There are no other locations of concern.

The department has updated guidelines to health services and general practitioners, with modifications to the case definition and exclusions recommendations. These are now available at: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/information-health-services-novel-coronavirus