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Novel Coronavirus: Information for general practices

13 February 2020

While first published 28 January, this page is continually being added to and updated with information about novel coronavirus that is available from the Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) and NSW Health.

While at this point in time we have not been advised of any cases of novel coronavirus 2019 (2019 - nCoV) in our region, we are mindful that general practices are likely to be the first point of contact for patients concerned about the current situation or who are seeking more information.

We have provided below links to key information, and encourage you to regularly check these pages for new and updated information.

The Chief Medical Officer and Minister for Health have held a press conference, during which they recommended GPs and practice staff should wear masks if assessing a patient who may meet the criteria.

The following is offered to assist your practice in managing the provision of information to your patients or to prepare for the possibility of a novel coronavirus case presenting at your practice.

RACGP & NSW Health Coronavirus Webinar from 11 February

Updated 13 Feb: NSW Health together with the RACGP provided another webinar update for general practitioners on Tuesday, 11 February on the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). 

RACGP NSW & ACT Chair, Dr Charlotte Hespe, Chair of the NSW & ACT Disaster Management Committee, Dr Penny Burns and Dr Kerry Chant, and other NSW Public Health leaders were on the webinar.

RACGP & NSW Health Coronavirus Webinar from 4 February

UPDATED 5 Feb: RACGP NSW & ACT Faculty together with NSW Health presented a webinar on 4 February. RACGP President, Dr Harry Nespolon, NSW & ACT Disaster Management Committee Chair, Dr Penny Burns, NSW Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant and infectious diseases specialist Dr Tania Sorrell particpated in the discussion.

We recommend GPs read the latest NSW Health advice sheet for GPs. Dr Michael Crampton, NBMPHN Clinical Advisor, has identified the following highlights of this advice as discussed at the webinar:

  • Screen your patients against the current case definitions (travel/contact history and respiratory symptoms - specific details contained in the latest NSW Health GP advice sheet) to help to identify patients who are at risk of having contracted Coronavirus.
  • All patients who meet the current case definition must have two swabs collected, one for Coronavirus and one for other  respiratory viruses
  • It is optional for GPs to collect samples themselves from their patients. Other options include referral to local Emergency Departments or to selected local pathology collection centres. In all cases you must include on the referral how the patient meets the current case definitions (travel/contact history and respiratory symptoms). Phone ahead for any patients you refer to ED or pathology collection centres.
  • Although Coronavirus testing is now available at selected private pathology providers, please check with your local pathology collection centre to confirm its readiness to collect these samples before referring patients.
  • If you collect samples from at risk patients at your surgery, you must use adequate PPE to avoid personal exposure.
  • If your patient meets the current case definition, they must commence home isolation for the prescribed period, even if their Coronavirus swab returns a negative result.

GPs are advised to contact their local PHU for clarification of any issues arising from the NSW Health advice.

P2 and Surgical Mask Update

Updated 11 Feb: Surgical and P2 masks have now been delivered to all practices.

Creating Alert Messages for Online Booking Systems

Updated 11 Feb: Creating a coronavirus alert message will ensure thorough triage protocols are in place for practices who use online booking systems for patient appointments.

An example of a possible alert message might be: Please ring reception prior to your appointment if you have visited China within the last 14 days or if you have a fever or flu-like symptoms.

  • HotDoc - provides detailed instructions online on how practices can create an alert message. 
  • HealthEngine - practices can update their booking message by logging into their HealthEngine profile. Go to Practice Admin Settings, click on Practice Policy, from there the first message that patients see can be customised. HealthEngine can be contacted on 1300 377 639.
  • Docbook - can implement alert messages for practices by request. Provide the exact text your practice would like displayed in your alert to

Information for health professionals

Latest updates 11 February: 

Other resources:


Do I need a medical certificate clearing me f​or work?

Our GP Clinical Advisor, Dr Michael Crampton, has liaised with the local Public Health Unit, who wishes to reiterate the advice on the NSW Health website about medical certificate clearances. Please keep checking back to the novel coronavirus FAQs page, which is being updated regularly. This is the information on this site as at 3 February 2020:

'If you do not have any symptoms there is no testing that can be done to predict whether or not you will become unwell. It is not possible to issue a ‘medical clearance certificate’.

Once 14 days have passed since you left mainland China, you have passed the time in which you would become sick if you were exposed to coronavirus when you were in China. If you are still completely well 14 days after you left China, then you will not get coronavirus from your time in China.

Information for patients

Latest Updates 5 February:

  • Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 for people with questions regarding prevention and the spread of coronavirus.
  • healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 to speak to a registered nurse who can provide advice when you're not sure what to do — whether you should see a local GP, manage the condition at home, or go to an emergency department, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Novel coronavirus information including symptoms, spread, rate of infection, diagnosis and treatment (healthdirect)
  • FAQs about the Wuhan novel coronavirus (2019 - nDoV) outbreak (healthdirect) 
  • healthdirect Symptom Checker guides on the appropriate healthcare action, updated with information on novel coronavirus. Also available on the healthdirect app. (healthdirect)

Other resources:

Preparing your practice

On the 28 January we emailed our general practices some tips developed by our GP Advisor, Dr Michael Crampton, to consider when preparing for these scenarios. 

Consider preparing brief internal scripts that will ensure everyone within your practice is consistent in how they respond to possible scenarios, such as:

  1. Requests for advice from patients
  2. Questionnaire for patients in your waiting room
  3. If an unwell patient presents
  4. If an unwell patient phones
  5. School/parent request for "clearance" certificate
  6. If your practice is advised of known case among patients

Given the variability of practice arrangements, the way you manage these scenarios may be different to how another practice might manage them. Look firstly to your existing policies and processes and consider if they may need modifications to suit this current situation.