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Novel Coronavirus information: Latest news for general practices

14 July 2020

While first published in January, this page is continually being added to and updated.

Novel coronavirus is an evolving international health concern. We are publishing regular updates on this page, but encourage health professionals to also view the Coronavirus for health professionals section of our website.

COVID-19 Statistics for our region

14 July update:

Advice re: Physically Signing PBS scripts

NSW Health has provided clarification on the need for people to physically sign paper PBS prescriptions on receipt of those items from a pharmacy. Under the interim arrangement, patients are not required to sign to acknowledge receipt of supply if it is not practical for them to do so. The pharmacist may sign on their behalf. 

New Support for Older Australians

Two new resources are available to help support the mental health and wellbeing of seniors during COVID-19:

  • Friend Line is a free phone service providing the opportunity to chat with a volunteer. Available 7 days, 10am-8pm on 1800 424 287. 
  • Free webinars are available through the Be Connected program to help improve the online skills of older Australians​.

Resource: Use of Masks and Respirators

The Australian Department of Health provides the following useful resource about the use of face masks and respirators in the context of COVID-19.

We have distributed 12760 P2 masks and 34250 surgical masks to general practices across our region. If you require masks, submit a request on our website

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Update

The latest update from Deputy CMO, Professor Michael Kidd sent Friday 10 July, includes: 

Upcoming Education 

Supporting social integration and reintegration of older people with mental illness post-COVID 19 (NSW Aged Health Collaborative) Thursday 30 July, 12.00pm

13 July update:

Public Health Alert

NSW Health has issued a Public Health Alert, urging anyone who attended the Crossroads Hotel at Casula between Friday July 3 and Friday July 10 to:

  • immediately self-isolate until 14 days after they were last there
  • attend a clinic for testing even if they have no symptoms
  • watch for symptoms and get retested should any respiratory symptoms occur
  • even if you get a negative test stay in isolation for 14 days.

The total number of cases linked to the hotel is 9 (as at 12 July).

Your practice may wish to consider including a question relating to visiting Crossroads Hotel at Casula to your patient screening protocol. 

New Blue Mountains cases linked to Crossroads Hotel

Four cases have been identified in the upper mountains. This includes a 50 year old man who visited the Crossroads Hotels and his three household contacts. Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District is encouraging Blue Mountains residents experiencing even mild COVID-19 symptoms to get tested. Our website lists the testing options available in our region.

10 July update:

It’s important everyone is up-to-date with the latest guidance about restrictions in your local area, especially as these are changing. Please continue to support your patients to remain informed about current restrictions in your jurisdiction.

9 July update:

AHPRA Telehealth Guidance

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has produced a document providing telehealth guidance for health practitioners:

7 July update: 

Patient Resources about Testing

Download these NSW Health brochure to support your patients with testing and self-isolation information.

Practices Exempt From 4 sqm Rule

Please be aware that in NSW, medical or health facilities are listed amongst the business that are EXEMPT from the 4 sqm rule that applies to most businesses.

3 July Update:

Public Health (COVID-19 Interstate Hotspots) Order 2020 - 2 July

The NSW Minister of Health and Medical Research has signed the Public Health (COVID-19 Interstate Hotspots) Order 2020 that commenced on 2 July 2020. The Order relates to “affected persons”, who in the last 14 days have been in a COVID hotspot.

The order directs that an affected person must not travel to NSW unless:

  • They are a NSW resident
  • They are entering to obtain medical or other care; to fulfil a legal obligation or give effect to a Court order; to provide an essential service (there is a non-exclusive list in the order re what is an essential service and it includes emergency, law enforcement, freight, health services, defence)

If an affected person enters NSW, they must self-isolate at their place of residence or another suitable place and remain there until 14 days have passed since the person was in a COVID hotspot. There are only limited reasons an affected person can leave their home, including obtaining medical care, complying with legal obligations, providing an essential service, in an emergency or to leave NSW. The person must comply with the NSW Health self-isolation guidelines. Another person cannot enter the affected person’s place of residence except in limited circumstances e.g. normally live there or providing medical care or delivering food. There are certain exemptions in place.

The following fact sheets have also availabe on NSW Health website fro people returning from Melbourne or Victoria:

CDNA Guidelines Updated V3.4

The COVID-19 CDNA Guidelines were updated on 1 July to V3.4. Revisions are listed to: Case definition – suspect case, the disease, communications, laboratory testing, case management, Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix D. Minor wording changes in other sections.

COVID-19 Health Professionals National Disability Advisory Service Trial

On 7 July, the Australian Government Department of Health is launching a trial COVID-19 Health Professionals National Disability Advisory Service to assist health workers caring for people with disabilities.

The Advisory Service provides specialised advice regarding the care of a person with disability diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Specific support may be required to help address communication and management issues, such as behaviours of concern and the reduction of risk to the patient and staff involved. Calls to the Advisory Service will be answered by health professionals with disability service qualifications and experience working with people with disability.

Health professionals can call the service on 1800 131 330 from Tuesday 7 July between 7:00am – 11:00pm, 7 days a week. The helpline will be available for a six week trial. It will then be assessed based on utilisation and future need.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Update

The latest Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd AM update was sent Friday 3 July

30 June Update:

Lithgow Hospital COVID Clinic Hours 

Lithgow Hospital COVID testing clinic has changed its hours and is now open from 10am – 3pm, 7 days a week. 

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Update

The latest Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd AM update was sent Friday 26 June.

Contents include:

Vaccination Contraindication Template Update

NSW Health has updated the template for medical contraindications to the flu vaccine. For your convenience, we have converted this into templates for Medical Director and Best Practice.

Masks Update

Our practice support team has now distributed 53,300 masks to GPs, practices, pharmacies and allied health professionals in our region. 

25 June Update:

Upcoming RACGP Webinar 

The RACGP update we will be covering the latest developments in COVID-19, the emerging likelihood of a COVID-19 immunisation and what this will look like, and the current Flu and Pneumonia vaccinations and how this fits into the COVID response.

NSW COVID-19 update webinar (RACGP): Tuesday July 7, 07:00pm - 8.00pm

CDNA Guidelines Update

The CDNA guidelines were updated on 23 June, to version 3.3. The updated changes are listed as being to Case definition – enhanced testing, Case management – definition of COVID-19 death.

Public Health Order RACF Updated

Public Health Order 2020 (COVID-19 Residential Aged Care Facilities) has been updated. Key changes include:

  • Care and support visits no longer restricted to 2 hours
  • Residents can receive more than one care and support visit per day (by max 2 visitors together)
  • Those under 16 years can now visit under the same restrictions as other visitors - not only for end-of-life
  • Personal care services can resume.

In addition, the Influenza Vaccine Medical Contraindication Form now states that people with egg allergy (non-anaphylaxis) do not qualify for a medical contraindication exemption from the flu vaccine. Medical Director and Best Practice templates of this new form will be sent next week.

25 Bonus CPD points from RACGP

The RACGP has granted doctors 25 CPD points, equivalent to 12.5 hours of non-accredited educational activities, in recognition of their fast-tracked coronavirus education since the outbreak began. These points are being allocated directly to all GPs that are with RACGP's CPD program. Recent changes to the CPD program impose a greater administrative burden on CPD providers, making it more onerous to offer CPD point for short, one-off activities such as 1-2 hour webinars. 

In the 2020-22 triennium there is no longer a limit on the number of self-recorded CPDY activities a GP can undertake and log directly in their CPD dashboard.

24 June Update:

New GP-led COVID-19 Respiratory Clinic: Hawkesbury

Today our third GP-led COVID-19 Respiratory Clinic opens in Windsor. 

The Clinic will assess people with mild to moderate respiratory symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath, to enable widespread testing and identification of any COVID-19 cases. The new clinic is located at 6 Kable St, next door to (and run by) MyHealth Kable Practice.

23 June Update:

Understanding Your Local Testing Options

In response to feedback from GPs, we have developed a one-page summary of the local options for COVID testing available breaking down the differences in how they operate, to help you understand which option might be best for each of your patients. Download our COVID Testing Options Guide.

Blue Mountains Hospital Clinic

The Blue Mountains Hospital COVID-19 clinic so now a drive-through only clinic (enter via Woodlands Road), 9am to 12:30pm & 1pm to 4pm, seven days a week - view map.

RACF Outbreak Plan

We have developed a preparedness and response plan for primary care in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF).

The CDNA has developed guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of COVID-19 outbreaks in RACFs in Australia.

Small Business Grants 

The NSW Government is providing financial support to ease the pressures on small business as a result of COVID-19. The NSW Small Business COVID-19 Grants are also still open until 30 June.

Research Grants

Round two of the NSW Government COVID 19 Research Grants will be open shortly.  Subscribe to the mailing list to apply for funding. Round one has closed but unsuccessful applicants from round one may be considered in round two.

Access to Healthcare During COVID

recent survey by the Continuity of Care Collaboration examined consumer healthcare practices in May and found that GP, allied health, and pathology tests were the most common missed services, with concerns about using public transport a large barrier. This infographic of survey results provides further information, and highlights community concerns that may need to continually be examined at the local level to understand whether health practices are returning to pre-COVID usage patterns.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Update

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd AM update was sent last Friday 19 June.

Highlights include:

GPs can subscribe directly to these weekly updates.

17 June Update:

COVID-19 testing and collection advice

Practices should refer the NSW Health website for the latest case definitions and testing advice. Testing advice is also available in the NSW Health Updates for Health Professionals.

Guidance is available on COVID-19 swab collection (DoH) and collection of nasal and throat swabs for respiratory virus testing (NSW Health). 

Anyone referred for testing MUST self-isolate at least until the result is known.