Westvic News Express

Read the latest alerts and updates as they are released.

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December 3

The Department of Health has developed two fact sheets to provide information to help people stay safe and minimise the risk to health from bushfire smoke. The fact sheets have been developed using latest evidence and include general information, as well as information specific to vulnerable groups who may be at increased risk due to pre-existing health conditions.

November 27

PPE directives update

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has announced changes to Tier 1 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements.

Eye protection is no longer required for Tier 1 PPE. This applies to patient-facing healthcare workers who are providing care and/or treatment to patients assessed as low risk or no risk for coronavirus (COVID-19), against the clinical criteria for coronavirus (COVID-19). This advice replaces the advice in Guide to the conventional use of PPE published on 21 October 2020. Please note the Guide to the conventional use of PPE document is currently being updated.

For more details, refer to the DHHS website

Ross River Virus health warning

A Health Warning has been issued after Ross River virus has been detected in mosquitoes in the Gippsland Lakes area around Ninety Mile Beach. Residents and visitors to Victoria are being warned to protect themselves against mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus. These viruses can cause symptoms including joint pain and stiffness, headache, fever, rash and fatigue.

Doctors should consider the possibility of mosquito-borne disease in patients presenting with a compatible illness, especially after travel to rural or regional Victoria. A blood test early in the illness can indicate potential acute infection and should be repeated two weeks later for confirmation.

Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus disease must be notified by pathology services in writing within five days of diagnosis.

November 26

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer has issued a health alert regarding a rise in outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis in interstate and Victorian childcare centres.  New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have seen significantly higher numbers of reported outbreaks than usual. Outbreaks in Victoria are also increasing as childcare centres return to normal operation.

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in Victoria, more outbreaks of gastroenteritis are being reported, with eight outbreaks in childcare centres notified to the Department of Health and Human Services since the start of November.

Visit the DHHS website for more details.

November 23

The Department of Health and Human Services is directing clinicians to currently ask patients if they have been in South Australia and if so, to check the areas of risk defined by the South Australian government and recommended actions.

November 20

There are additional testing and isolation requirements for travellers entering Victoria who have been in South Australia since 7 November 2020 due to the current outbreak in metropolitan Adelaide.

Asymptomatic freight drivers may now be tested at DHHS testing locations. Samples must be marked urgent priority P3. They are not required to self-isolate.

Urgent priority testing category P1 now includes VCE students prior to or during their exam period. Please annotate test requests with URGENT – P1.

For more information, refer to HealthPathways

November 10

A HIGH risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma conditions has been forecast in the Mallee, Wimmera and South West weather districts for TOMORROW 11 November 2020 due to the combination of grass pollen and severe thunderstorms. There is also MODERATE risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma conditions TODAY in adjoining weather districts for the Mallee and Wimmera.

If people have asthma or hayfever, the advice is to go inside, close doors and windows and avoid wind gusts before and during the storm. Reliever medication should be carried at all times today.

Please remain aware of current weather conditions by monitoring the Bureau of Meteorology forecast and updates and www.emergency.vic.gov.au.

If your health service sees any potential or actual impacts, it is critical that you notify your DHHS emergency management contacts early so that the department can coordinate a broader health sector response if required.

November 8

From 11.59pm tonight, restriction levels in Victoria will be further eased. For the latest on what is allowed in regional Victoria, refer to the Department of Health and Human Services website.

November 5

Health warning to gardeners using potting mix – The Department of Health and Human Services has been notified of 26 cases of Legionella longbeachae from 1 January to 30 October 2020. This bacteria is a cause of Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia.

Read the Health Alert

October 26

The Federal Government has announced new items will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from November 1. These include Mayzent® (siponimod) for treating secondary progressive multiple sclerosis; Uvadex® (methoxsalen) for treatment of patients with erythrodermic cutaneous T-cell lymphoma who have not responded to other treatments; Tecentriq® and Avastin® (atezolizumab and bevacizumab) for use in combination to treat patients with advanced unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma; and Lynparza® (olaparib) for the treatment of newly diagnosed advanced high grade epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancers.

For more details, read the Minister’s media release.

October 20

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has updated its information for asymptomatic testing in public sector residential aged care services. New fact sheets are available for:

  • Protecting the health of public sector residential aged care workers and residents: asymptomatic testing. Guidance and frequently asked questions
  • Protecting our aged care workers: asymptomatic testing: Frequently asked questions for staff of public sector residential aged care facilities
  • Aged Care Worker COVID asymptomatic testing Form and Instructions

Download the fact sheets from the DHHS website

October 15

The RACGP has today released a guide for GPs on providing care to adult patients who have previously tested positive to COVID-19 or have a history suggestive of undiagnosed COVID-19 and have – or are at risk of – post-COVID-19 conditions. Developed in collaboration with HealthPathways, the guide includes information on:

  • infection control precautions and advising patients that having COVID-19 may not confer complete immunity
  • collaborating with the patient to develop an individualised plan to support their recovery. This also presents a unique opportunity to optimise the management of existing chronic conditions
  • providing care for specific groups recovering from the virus including those with severe COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation, older patients and people with disability
  • options for enhancing support for patients including home delivery of medicines, assistance with food and meals and support lines including the Older Persons COVID-19 support line.

Visit the RACGP website for a copy of the Caring for adult patients with post-COVID-19 conditions guide

September 16

Victoria’s Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos today released the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024 – the latest four-year state-wide plan to drive down the harm caused by all cancers.

The plan seeks to boost HPV vaccinations to vulnerable groups of young people and improve vaccination and screening reminders in order to eliminate cervical cancer. Alongside this, the plan will encourage the use of cervical screening self-collection tests to reach women who may be reluctant to have a conventional examination by a health professional. For more details, read the Minister’s media release

September 14

National Digital Health Skills and Training Plan Released

The Federal Government has released a national digital health skills and training plan to help the health workforce use technology and further drive the digital transformation of health services to meet community demand. For more information, read the Minister’s media release

September 1

National Cervical Screening Program Survey

The Department of Health is seeking feedback on potential changes to the National Cervical Screening Program Policy. The review follows a recommendation in 2018 from the Standing Committee on Screening to change the self-collection policy, based on evidence showing equivalent sensitivity of PCR tests on self-collected vaginal swabs versus clinician-collected cervical sample. Read more about the changes and access the survey from the Federal Government’s consultation website 

August 31

New cancer treatment listed on the PBS

The Federal Government has announced that from September 1, Calquence® (acalabrutinib) will be listed on the PBS for the first time for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and small lymphocytic lymphoma. With the PBS subsidy, patients will now pay just $41 per script, or $6.60 with a concession card. Read the media release.

August 27

Funding for Primary Care Enhancement Program for people with intellectual disability

Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) welcomes this week’s announcement from the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, that we are one of four PHNs in Australia sharing in a $5.75 million allocation to lead the development of the Primary Care Enhancement Program for people with an intellectual disability.  WVPHN will receive $1.437 million of the funding over four years. See Minister Hunt’s announcement

August 26

Primary Care Mental Health Hubs Coming to Western Victoria

Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) welcomes news that two new mental health hubs will be set up in our region as part of the Federal Government’s $26.9 million commitment to creating 15 mental health response clinics in Victoria. Read more.