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COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Information

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Information

On this webpage you can find advice for GPs and community members on how to identify, manage and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please note that the situation in Australia with regards to novel coronavirus is changing continually and official local and national government sources will be able to provide the most up-to-date information.

Information for health professionals

Latest testing criteria from NSW Health

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/2019-ncov-case-definition.aspx

 

Updated information and advice for health professionals

For the most up to date guidance visit: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx (includes FAQs, clinical advice, resources and more)

Information can also be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert#health-and-aged-care-sector-advice

 

Information on PPE

Australian Government Department of Health Distribution of PPE through PHN policy advice has advised increasing the mask allocation allowed for general practices to ensure they receive adequate supply to protect their frontline staff and patients.

The policy now ensures that:

  • General practices and ACCHS receive 2 boxes (100 masks) for each clinic within the practice or ACCHS.
  • Community pharmacy receive one box (50 masks) per community pharmacy

View document

 

COVID-19 infection control online training  

This is designed to provide training on protecting yourself and the people you are caring for from infection with COVID-19. The training takes approximately 30 minutes.  Training is accessible here: https://covid-19training.com.au/

 

Information for health care practitioners in general practice or other primary health care settings, pathology collection centres, residential aged care facilities, and hospital outpatient or emergency departments
Interim advice on non-inpatient care of persons with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), including use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

 

HealthPathways
The Sydney North HealthPathways team have completed a rapid localisation of the pathway Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Information. If you have not accessed HealthPathways before, or if you have any questions, please contact the HealthPathways Team: healthpathways@snhn.org.au

 

Helping patients with Dementia navigate COVID-19

Dementia Australia have released four help sheets which outline tips for people living with dementia and the carers or friends and family of those living with dementia.

To find out more visit: https://sydneynorthhealthnetwork.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Dementia-Australia-COVID-19.pdf

 

Respiratory high-risk therapies

The NSW Government’s Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) has released some resources on the use of respiratory therapies that generate aerosolised particles. These therapies are capable of transmitting respiratory viruses including COVID-19. For this reason, they are considered high-risk.

The documents below provide some guidance around how to mitigate the risk of these therapies to keep people safe. There are also some alternatives that should be considered. These documents were informed by an evidence review, and developed by experts from the respiratory, intensive care, anaesthetics, paediatrics and infection control disciplines.

 

Recommendations for managing vulnerable healthcare workers are available at the NSW Health website.

From 13 March 2020 to 30 September 2020 (inclusive), new temporary MBS telehealth items have been made available to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers.

  • The list of telehealth services has continued to expand since 13 March. The latest factsheet provides details on all current telehealth items.
  • The new temporary MBS telehealth items are available to GPs, medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, participating midwives and allied health providers.
  • A service may only be provided by telehealth where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.
  • From 6 April 2020, it is a legislative requirement that the new telehealth services must be bulk billed for Commonwealth concession card holders, children under 16 years old and patients who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • Health providers may apply their usual billing practices to the telehealth items for patients who do not fit the above criteria. Providers are expected to obtain informed financial consent from patients prior to providing the service; providing details regarding their fees, including any out-of-pocket costs.
  • From 30 March 2020, the bulk billing incentive Medicare fees have doubled for items relating to General Practice, Diagnostic Imaging and Pathology services. These items can be claimed with the new temporary MBS telehealth items where appropriate. The new fees can be found on MBS Online.

How can I set up telehealth technology in my practice?
SNHN can help primary care practitioners and specialists get set up with a free, fit-for-purpose telehealth solution designed for health professionals. Email your query to digitalhealth@snhn.org.au

The Department of Health has issued a ‘Guide for Prescribers’ fact sheet, containing interim arrangements for prescriptions to support telehealth services.

It contains instructions on how to correctly send prescriptions to pharmacies via email, text message or fax, as well as other guidance on medicine delivery services, and existing prescriptions and repeats.

View the fact sheet here.

Sydney North Health Network (Northern Sydney PHN) have been issuing P2 and surgical masks to all general practices across the region since 30th January.

Commencing 6th April, Sydney North Health Network will be dispatching masks to ALL general practices across our region to ensure adequate supply for the next 2-4 weeks. Your practice will receive an allocation of masks via courier, which will reduce the need to submit frequent requests for masks.

In the interest of remaining equitable, masks will be allocated according to general practice size, number of clinical staff and demonstrated need (e.g. COVID-19 testing at the practice). Sydney North Health Network will monitor any additional requests and re-assess quantities, if required.

Community pharmacies can continue to use the online mask request form below.

We ask general practices and pharmacies to continue being mindful of the guidelines for the wearing of masks and to conserve their stock as much as possible. Please refer to the latest guidance for the distribution of masks through Primary Health Networks for more information.

Information on the use of surgical masks

Australian Government Department of Health Novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) information on the use of surgical masks 

 

Mask-fitting guidelines

https://sydneynorthhealthnetwork.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Principles-of-Fit-checking-chart2.pdf

 

Australian Government Department of Health provisions of PPE to SNHN (Primary Health Networks)

Please be aware that Primary Health Networks have only been supplied with surgical and P2 masks.

Sydney North Health Network have not been provided with supplies of:

  • hand sanitiser
  • gowns
  • gloves
  • goggles

The allocated surgical and P2 masks are to supply General Practices and Pharmacists only within the Northern Sydney region. Any other Health Care Providers requesting masks are being directed to the National Incident Room. They can be contacted via email at: health.ops@health.gov.au. These requests must state your organisation’s need for masks.

Phone calls  |  If a patient calls you and they meet the suspect case definition:

  • If a patient has severe symptoms (e.g dyspnoea and severe cough), refer them to your local emergency department for assessment and testing. Please call ahead.
  • If  a patient has mild to moderate symptoms, arrange testing at your practice (ensuring you follow infection control guidelines) pathology collection centre. (Enquire with your pathology provider on locations of testing labs or see list of testing centres below.) Ask the patient to phone when they are outside the practice, so a staff member with appropriate PPE can go out and fit them with a surgical mask before bringing them into the clinic.
  • If you need further information, phone your public health unit on 1300 066 055.

 

Walk-in patients  |  If a patient who meets the suspect case definition attends your practice:

  • Ask the patient to wear a surgical mask and move them to a separate room.
  • Use standard, contact and droplet transmission precautions – including a surgical mask, long-sleeved gown, gloves and protective eyewear – when entering the room (additional precautions needed if collecting a specimen, see below).
  • If they have fever or any respiratory symptoms, ask if they have travelled to or transited through a country considered to pose a risk of transmission
  • If you decide a patient has severe symptoms (e.g. dyspnoea and severe cough), refer them to your local emergency department for assessment and testing. Please call ahead.
  • If you decide a patient has mild to moderate symptoms, arrange testing at your practice (ensuring you follow infection control guidelines) or a local pathology collection centre. (Enquire with your pathology provider on locations of testing labs or see list of testing centres below.)
  • Phone your public health unit (1300 066 055) if you need further information.

 

Testing centres and clinics

Ryde Respiratory Clinic

The WiSE Clinic team has worked with the Australian Government Department of Health, MQ Health and Sydney North Health Network to establish the Ryde Respiratory Clinic to assess people with mild-moderate respiratory symptoms and test and diagnose cases including COVID-19, influenza and pneumonia.

The clinic will be appointment based until further notice. There is no charge for patients.

Appointments can be made by clicking on the following link (no walk-ins): Ryde Respiratory Clinic

Follow this link to find out how to book an appointment at the Ryde Respiratory Clinic: https://sydneynorthhealthnetwork.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/RRC-booking-process-v1.2.pdf

For people that do not have internet access, please phone 9216 7676 to book an appointment and follow the prompts.

 

NSW Health COVID-19 collection centre North Ryde, Macquarie Hospital, Cnr Coxs Road and Badajoz Road – 8:30am – 5:00pm. All patients must have a pathology request form for coronavirus testing prior to calling the Douglass Hanly Moir Booking Hotline.

  • To arrange an appointment please call the Douglass Hanly Moir COVID-19 Booking Hotline on 1800 026 622.
  • Patients are advised to wear a mask.

NSW Health COVID-19 collection centre St Leonards, Royal North Shore Community Health Centre, 2C Herbert Street – 8:30am – 5:00pm. All patients must have a pathology request form for coronavirus testing prior to calling the Douglass Hanly Moir Booking Hotline.

  • To arrange an appointment please call the Douglass Hanly Moir COVID-19 Booking Hotline on 1800 026 622.
  • Patients are advised to wear a mask.

4cyte at North Ryde: see requirements and details at https://www.4cyte.com.au/OurLocationsCoronavirus.php

Northern Beaches Hospital has a COVID-19 Clinic as an extension to the Emergency Department.  The clinic is open from 0930 – 1800 Monday to Sunday and is located at the rear of the Emergency Department.

People are advised to use the Emergency Department intercom on the exterior of the building and they will be escorted to the clinic for testing to minimise any risk to other people waiting in the Emergency Department. Referrals are not necessary and the clinic is drop-in.

Patients who test positive will be followed up and advised by public health.

Click here for a list of NSW Health COVID-19 Clinicshttps://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus-clinics.aspx

 

Home Isolation

  • From 15 March- all travellers arriving from overseas must quarantine themselves for 14 days after return.
  • Prior to 15 March – all travellers who have been in or transited through China, Italy, Iran or South Korea must quarantine themselves for 14 days after return.

A guide to home isolation is available here: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/hubei-contacts-and-travellers.aspx

 

Prescreen patients for COVID-19 with BetterConsult

General practices using the Best Practice Premier practice management system can now screen patients for COVID-19 before they arrive at the clinic using its in-built BetterConsult technology. Click here for more information.

HotDoc

HotDoc has provided detailed instructions on how you can create a coronavirus alert message to your online bookings profile to ensure thorough triage protocols are used during this heightened time. Visit: https://support.hotdoc.com.au/hc/en-gb/articles/360038868532-Creating-an-alert-message-for-an-emerging-health-concern.

 

HealthEngine

Practices who use HealthEngine for appointment bookings are encouraged to update their initial booking message to request patients call their GP, Emergency Department or healthdirect for advice before attending if they have symptoms and meet the criteria that could indicate novel coronavirus.

To update this message, practices need to log into their HealthEngine profile, go to Practice Admin Settings, click on Practice Policy and from here the first message that potential patients see can be customised with this information. If you need more information or would like additional support, please contact HealthEngine directly on the following phone number: 1300 377 639.

 

Docbook

The Docbook team is able to implement alerts for your practice by request. Please contact them at info@doctorbook.com.au with the exact text that you would like displayed and they can implement this for you.

Community Information

Where can I find trusted sources of information?

Whilst media coverage of COVID_19 can help  you feel informed, it can also trigger feelings of anxiety and agitation. To stay up to date with accurate, factual information you can access:

These are all updated daily.

Sometimes the information provided by the NSW Ministry of Health and Australian Government Department of Health may differ. This is because the NSW Government provides information  specifically for NSW, which has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Australian Government provides information which is relevant for the whole of Australia – as a result, their messages may not be identical.

 

COVID19 ‘The Facts’ Video – Professor Simon Willcox, MQ Health GP and Director of Primary Care at Macquarie University Hospital

Professor Simon Willcox presents this COVID-19 video which provides an overview of:

  • How the virus is spread
  • Practical steps to prevent catching or spreading the disease
  • How to identify the symptoms of COVID-19
  • Where to find general advice and information about the disease
  • What to do if you develop any of the symptoms of COVID-19

In addition to Simon’s roles as a practising GP and a Director of Primary Care, he is also Chair of the Avant Mutual Group, a board member of Sydney North Health Network, the NSW Doctors’ Health Advisory Service and a member of the NSW AMA Council of General Practice.

 

Australian Government Department of Health COVID-19 Fact Sheets

Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 – What you need to know

COVID-19 – Information on social distancing 

COVID-19 – Information about routine environmental cleaning and disinfection in the community 

COVID-19 information for hotel guests 

 

NSW Health and Australian Government Department of Health Information

NSW Health COVID-19 Information and resources in languages other than English

NSW Health Novel coronavirus FAQs

Australian Government Department of Health Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Information 

Australian Government Department of Health Watch

Australian Government Department of Health Novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) information on the use of surgical masks.

 

Healthdirect 

healthdirect website coronavirus (COVID-19) hub – first point of reference for reliable information about COVID-19

healthdirect Symptom Checker – an online tool that allows people to check their symptoms using a simple self-guided process.

 

Community feedback

Do you have a ‘good news’ story about your community? If so, the Community Engagement Team at SNHN would love to hear from you. Perhaps a local business is supporting the vulnerable or you know someone who is going ‘above and beyond’ to help others. Email your story and any accompanying photographs to community@snhn.org.au

What is it?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified.

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was discovered in China in late 2019 when number of people in the province of Wuhan sought medical advice for pneumonia-like symptoms. When tested by doctors, it was discovered that these individuals had developed a strain of coronavirus that hadn’t been seen before.

What are the symptoms?

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms (coughing, sore throat, head aches) and difficulty breathing. Severity can range from from mild illness to pneumonia.

Experts believe that this outbreak is likely to have originated in an animal species and spread to humans. Some countries, including Australia, have reported human-to-human transmission.

How is it spread?

Human coronaviruses are spread from someone with confirmed coronavirus to other close contacts with that person through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

To help stop the spread of COVID-19 everyone should:

  • Stay at home unless you are an essential worker, you need to shop for groceries or you are exercising. This is important to help protect vulnerable people from the virus. Find out what you can and can’t do in NSW under the new laws. In particular, anyone over 70 years of age (or over 60 if they have a long-term illness, or over 50 if they are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background) should stay at home as these age groups are most likely to suffer from serious complications. Visitors to residential aged care facilities are also limited  or this reason.
  • Practice good hygiene measures
    – make sure ​you clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub
    – cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow
    – avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
    – clean and disinfect your home or business to help to prevent the virus from spreading from contaminated surfaces
    – stay at home if you feel unwell or are experiencing any symptoms
  • Practice Social Distancing You should stay at least (1.5m) away from other people at all times and be with no more than 1 other person in any indoor and outdoor space. Avoid physical greetings of any kind such as hugs or handshakes.

 

Some people should:

 

Australian Government Department of Health COVID-19 Resources

Information on social distancing

Information about routine environmental cleaning and disinfection in the community

 

Posters for your home or workplace – effective handwashing or use of alcohol-based handrub

The NSW Government has appealed to individuals and businesses to take action over the coming months in preparing for a potential COVID-19 pandemic coinciding with the winter flu. Following is an excerpt from the NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research’s media release:

Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said NSW Health has planned extensively for a pandemic and further strengthened its response since the SARS, MERS and H1N1 “swine flu” threats, but everyone plays a role in prevention.

“Simple hygiene measures like regular hand washing, sneezing into your elbow and, most importantly, staying home when sick, will not only help ease ED presentations for flu but also support existing COVID-19 pandemic plans,” Mr Hazzard said.

“Businesses also need to review their continuity plans now. Look at strategies for keeping workers safe with simple measures such as alcohol hand rub in the workplace, stress the importance of staying home when sick, and use technologies that allow people to work from home where necessary.

“We also ask everyone to please see your GP for minor illnesses and injuries where possible, to ensure we keep our EDs for emergencies only, particularly as we head into the busy flu season.”

If you have been identified as a contact of a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection in Australia, the local public health unit will contact you with advice. You need to isolate yourself at home for 14 days after contact with the infected person, and to monitor your health and report any symptoms.

Person to person spread of coronaviruses generally occurs between people who are close contacts with one another. A close contact is typically someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, with a person that was infectious. The public health unit will keep in touch with people who are close contacts of patients with COVID-19 infection. If any symptoms develop contacts must call the public health unit to report those symptoms.

 

Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for close contacts of a confirmed case

 

If your contact with the person was less than this, there is a much smaller risk of you being infected. However, as a precaution you must still monitor your health until 14 days after you were last exposed to the infectious person. If you develop symptoms including a fever and/or respiratory signs, please call ahead to talk to a doctor or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222. Tell your doctor that you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. The doctor may tell you to attend your nearest emergency department – if so when you arrive, immediately tell staff you have had contact with someone with COVID-19.

More information about home isolation is available for:

If you develop symptoms within 14 days of last contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you develop symptoms within 14 days of returning to Australia after travelling overseas, you should seek medical attention. Your doctor will tell you if you need to get tested.

Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly.

People with coronavirus may experience:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue
  • shortness of breath

 

You can use the healthdirect online Coronavirus Symptom Checker tool at the bottom of this section to find out what, if any, actions you need to take to protect yourself and your community.

 

Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for people with a suspected case

 

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

At this time there is no vaccine available to prevent Coronavirus, nor is there a specific treatment to cure it. People with more serious complications can be treated in hospital.

COVID-19

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Many aspects of life are affected by a pandemic. Most people have little experience of an event like COVID-19 and it can be quite overwhelming when your health, social life, employment and financial situation are impacted. It is important to look after your mental health during this time. You can do this by:

  • Spending time outside during the day if possible – fresh air and daylight will help you sleep and improve your overall mood.
  • While it’s normal to feel anxious or uncertain during this time, you can seek help if these feelings start to affect your everyday functioning. There are a number of free support services, resources and mobile apps available:
  • Way2Wellness
  • Head to Health
  • Beyond Blue
  • Black Dog Institute
  • Clevertar (Available on Apple iStore or Google Play)
  • If you know children or a young people who are feeling concerned by the situation, this 6-minute video from SchoolTV can help your family feel informed.
  • Listen to the COVID-19: Fear and Anxiety SoundCloud panel discussion from Sydney Ideas (The University of Sydney)
  • Remember – stay on top of the facts, but limit your exposure to the hype!

 

Physical care

Nutrition

Exercise

Although it is may be more challenging to stay fit when self-quarantining, daily exercise is critical to overall physical and mental health. You could take up running, yoga, or other home workouts. There are many free online guides and mobile apps to guide you through home workouts. Some of these include:

 

What if I need to see a doctor?

If you need to see a doctor, call (don’t visit) your local practice. The staff will help you decide whether you require a face-to-face consultation, or a consultation over the phone or by video (‘telehealth’).

  • Telehealth is designed to protect you, your GP and the wider community by reducing the number of people visiting GP waiting rooms, where the virus could potentially spread
  • If you have symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, headache, cough, sore throat or muscle aches, your doctor may refer you to a Respiratory Clinic or an Emergency Department. If you need a prescription your doctor will send this directly to your local pharmacy where you can collect it, or your pharmacy may be able to deliver to your home.

 

Community feedback

Do you have a ‘good news’ story about your community? If so, the Community Engagement Team at SNHN would love to hear from you. Perhaps a local business is supporting the vulnerable or you know someone who is going ‘above and beyond’ to help others. Email your story and any accompanying photographs to Community@snhn.org.au

With the exception of essential workers, most people are now working from home. You may also be sharing your home office with partners, housemates or family members who are working or learning remotely.

For most, this will be a new way of working. Here are some suggestions on how to get the best out of your working day:

  • Maintain a routine much as possible – and make room in it for things you enjoy
  • Ensure each person has their own work station
  • Take a 2-minute stretch break every 30 minutes [app and stretch sheet]
  • Exercise at least once each day, preferably outside in the daylight
  • Eat lunch away from your workstation
  • Speak to at least one person from school, work or university each weekday by telephone or video call

 

Tips for home schooling

 

Community feedback

Do you have a ‘good news’ story about your community? If so, the Community Engagement Team at SNHN would love to hear from you. Perhaps a local business is supporting the vulnerable or you know someone who is going ‘above and beyond’ to help others. Email your story and any accompanying photographs to Community@snhn.org.au

What can we do to stay socially connected?

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.


Job Loss

With many businesses having to close their doors lots of people are facing unemployment. The stress and uncertainty of losing a job can weigh heavily on individual conscience and  on relationships. Consider the following to support friends and family in this situation:

  • Acknowledge the person’s concerns
  • “Suggest looking into the new Australian Government financial supports for those who’ve lost employment resulting from the COVID-19 measures. These include freezing mortgage repayments and changes to Newstart allowance through Centrelink. Find out more here.
  • Encourage them to keep their body and mind active. It is important to find new hobbies and exercise to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Community feedback

Do you have a ‘good news’ story about your community? If so, the Community Engagement Team at SNHN would love to hear from you. Perhaps a local business is supporting the vulnerable or you know someone who is going ‘above and beyond’ to help others. Email your story and any accompanying photographs to Community@snhn.org.au