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Caring for COVID-Positive Patients in the Community

The Australian Government is taking further steps to support and strengthen the health system as we move to living with COVID-19.

As COVID-19 vaccination rates rise and restrictions are eased, we expect there will be more but milder COVID-19 cases in the community, people for whom hospital care is neither desirable nor appropriate. General practice is critical to ensuring that COVID-positive people with mild to moderate symptoms can be effectively cared for in the community.

To support this, the Australian Government is providing a number of supports, including several being coordinated through Primary Health Networks.  These include:

  • Guidelines developed by the RACGP for managing adults with mild COVID-19 in the community are being urgently updated to extend the coverage to moderate cases and to cover children. Additional guidelines are being developed: to support patients to care for themselves at home where appropriate; and to provide guidance on caring for patients with Long COVID.
  • We are currently working the Local Health District to develop local care pathways (HealthPathways) to ensure there are clear and rapid pathways for escalation of patients who deteriorate while being cared for in the community. We are also working to ensure access to testing and care in the after-hours period, and that people at higher risk from COVID-19 have appropriate access to care.
  • A new $25 COVID-19 MBS item that can be claimed in addition to existing general consultation items for face-to-face services for COVID-positive patients. Any initial general consultation should be for an appropriate length of time to assess a patient and discuss their ongoing care and management.
  • Supporting follow-ups can be claimed through the usual MBS telehealth items. Face to face follow-ups, if needed, will attract the $25 COVID-19 item.
  • Access to a bundle of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the National Medical Stockpile, ordered via our website to practices seeing COVID-positive patients. The Department of Health is finalising quantities and inclusions, but an indicative list includes:
    • P2/N95 respirators
    • Eye protection
    • Long sleeved gowns/aprons
    • Gloves
  • Access to pulse oximeters, ordered via our website, to practices caring for COVID-positive patients in accordance with expert guidelines to support monitoring at home.
  • Access to home visits where needed to prevent unnecessary escalation to hospital for GP-managed COVID-positive patients where a practice does not have capacity to complete a home visit, including in the after-hours period. These services will be delivered under the supervision of the managing GP. Further information will be provided to general practices soon.
  • For States and Territories who agree to participate, healthdirect will provide support to Public Health Units to triage COVID-positive people. Where GP care in the community is indicated, healthdirect will connect patients with their regular GP wherever possible. If the patient’s regular practice cannot see them, healthdirect will connect patients with another general practice in their local area which has indicated they will work with COVID-positive patients, or to a GP Respiratory Clinic.
  • Participating general practices will need to have secure messaging capability to ensure the safe transfer of patient details. Appropriate secure messaging software includes Argus and Communicare.
  • healthdirect will also provide a 24/7 clinical support line for when a patient is unable to contact their GP or hospital in the home care arrangement.

Please note that our Practice Support Team will remain the first point of contact for participating general practices. 

If your practice is interested and willing to manage COVID-19 patients in the community with mild-moderate symptoms complete the form below.

Please note at this stage you are expressing interest and not being committed to participate, further information will be provided.

Is your practice willing to care for mild to moderate COVID positive patients in the community, including for initial face-to-face assessment, for: