Primary health care providers continue to play a critical role in the COVID response and recovery effects, which includes ensuring Victorians have access to essential care, services and support.
Victoria is at the beginning of another COVID wave. Over the last few weeks hospitalised COVID-cases have increased, as has the number of COVID cases within the community. This wave is driven by waning population immunity, reduction in community protective behaviours & emerging immune evasive subvariant.
While Pandemic Orders expired in October this year, below is an overview of key advice and resources to inform your COVID safe planning that supports keeping staff, patients and clients safe.
Review and reinstate your COVID Safe Plan including having an Infection Prevention Control lead within your workplace
For continuing best practice, increased vigilance regarding Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures is recommended. The following additional IPC measures should form part of your suite of COVID Safe Actions:
- Business continuity plan and measures to ensure service continuity should staff get COVID.
- Workforce planning and movement - Where practical, services and workplaces should restrict the mobility of all workers, preferably to one workplace site. Where movement is required, this should be conducted with appropriate risk mitigations in place (etc).
- Infection prevention and control measures - review and implement appropriate best practice infection control measures appropriate for your workplace.
o The department has a range of infection prevention control resources to support workplaces to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection in primary care settings;
o Correctly wearing quality masks and improving ventilation within indoor spaces reduces the risk of COVID-19. See simple steps to ventilate your workplace and prevent COVID-19
o Free Infection Prevention Helpline advice is available for general practice, community pharmacists, and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations. (1800 312 968 9am –5pm weekdays) or visit https://www.murrayphn.org.au/ipc
o For additional information and resources to support primary care settings visit Primary care guidance for the response to COVID-19 risks | health.vic.gov.au
Vaccinations and antivirals reduce the risk of hospitalisation and severe disease
- COVID-19 vaccinations - actively engage all staff, patients and clients to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. Information about vaccinations and getting vaccinated is Get vaccinated | Coronavirus Victoria
- Antiviral pre planning - for prescribers
o With eligible patients, especially high risk patients develop a treatment plan for antivirals prior to infection
o Speak with your local pharmacists’ so they are further informed about your antiviral prescribing needs to support appropriate levels of stock is held, and is timely accessible to your patients
o Prescribing resources, including antiviral treatment plan templates available on DH website
o Prescribers can also call the PBS prescriber helpline 03 8290 3801 (7 days 8am-5pm)
Testing remains an important tool in detection and treatment of patients
Practitioners should test any patients who meet the clinical criteria below:
- Fever OR chills in the absence of an alternative diagnosis that explains the clinical presentation* OR
- Acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, or loss or changes in sense of smell or taste)
- Note: testing is also recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with COVID-19** AND who are from the following cohorts: people who are most at risk of a severe illness, higher prevalence groups and settings, close contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19; those who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days; or those who are healthcare or aged care workers.
- *Clinical discretion applies including consideration of the potential for co-infection (e.g. concurrent infection with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza)
- **headache, myalgia, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.
Information for the public on getting the right help and support to match COVID-19 symptoms, available at www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/covidcare
- National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080 - clinical advice or help to access care and antiviral medicines from a GP, GP Respiratory Clinic or VVED if unable to get a GP appointment
- Victorian Coronavirus Hotline (VCH) (1800 675 398) - available to provide payment or food relief support to Victorians across the state, assistance in reporting a RAT and general public health advice.
- General Practice Respiratory Clinics - Free face to face assessment and care for people unwell with mild respiratory symptoms (including COVID-19). Also accessible by telehealth. List of GPRCs https://www.health.vic.gov.au/covid-19/gp-respiratory-clinics-and-hospital-respiratory-clinics-covid-19
- Victorian Virtual Emergency Department - selected patients, paramedics and clinicians with access to emergency nurses and doctors from their home or work, 24/7. The service helps to alleviate demands on Ambulance Victoria, the COVID Positive Pathway program, Residential Aged Care Facilities and emergency departments. Virtual assessments for antiviral medication prescription is available through VVED in partnership with Early Treatment Team for patients who can’t access a GP or GPRC. Home - Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (vved.org.au)
DH and RACGP webinar – preparedness for this COVID wave
The department with the RACGP VIC Faculty hosted a webinar on Wednesday 9 November 2022. The webinar covered:
- COVID Wave preparedness, including epi, vaccinations, antivirals, IPC measures and more by Senior Medial Advisor Dr Nadia Lusis, COVID Response, Victorian Department of Health
- Victorian Virtual Emergency Department - the role of the service to GPs and in the providing a COVID response by Dr. Loren Sher, Director VVED Northern Health
- Japanese Encephalitis update by Dr Max Braddick Infectious Diseases Registrar, Public Health Division, Victorian Department of Health
Please find the link to the webinar’s recording here for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0w7xdyTkWg&t=8s
Additional resources on Evusheld and Workplace Covid preparedness is at https://www.racgp.org.au/coronavirus/vic then click on the webinar Wednesday 9 November
All presentations under the Department and RACGP Vic Faculty webinar series are online on RACGP Vic COVID updates page here (under 2022 webinar series): https://www.racgp.org.au/coronavirus/vic
Key public health messages to protect yourself and others
Links to further information and resources about steps we can all take right now to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect ourselves, colleagues, your loved ones and the wider community is Protect yourself and others | Coronavirus Victoria
- Masks - wear a quality mask to protect from COVID - Face masks | Coronavirus Victoria
- Ventilation – Have fresh air when gathering indoors (or go outside) Ventilation | Coronavirus Victoria
- Isolation – Stay home if unwell Managing COVID-19 at home | Coronavirus Victoria
- Take a RAT if you have symptoms, PCR if high risk https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/get-a-covid-19-test
- Medication – Consult your doctor immediately if positive and high risk Medications for patients with COVID-19 | health.vic.gov.au
- If you’re due for your third or fourth dose, get it Now!