COVID-19 - Information for health professionals

Key reminders for general practice 

  • If referring your patients for COVID-19 testing, a list of testing locations can be found on DHHS' Getting tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) page.
  • All doctors requesting COVID-19 testing must provide a patient mobile number on the pathology slip. GPs should also indicate on the form if the patient is a health or aged care worker in order to expedite their test result. 
  • Medical practitioners seeking advice about COVID-19 (outside of testing and notification procedures) can call 1300 651 160 and choose the ‘Specialist Medical Advice’ option. Pending demand, you may be asked to leave a message for return phone call.
  • Deaths due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection must be notified to the department as soon as possible. Call 1300 651 160 (24 hours, seven days).
  • The  Quick Reference Guide  and the  Guidelines for Health Services and Practitioners download as Word documents and are updated live by DHHS. Please ensure you are using the latest version. 
  • Check the  DHHS novel coronavirus information page  regularly for updates about the novel coronavirus. 
  • Read the advice DHHS Outbreak management and high priority COVID-19 tests (19 May 2020)
  • Need advice on using PPE? Videos available on the RACGP's website
  • Sign-up to receive DHHS health alerts and advisories  here .
  • Sign-up to receive SEMPHN’s COVID-19 email here

Update 7 August

  • As of 6 August 2020, the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Victoria is 13,469 with 471 new cases diagnosed since yesterday.
  • Of the new cases, 81 are linked to outbreaks or complex cases and 390 are under investigation.
  • There are 2,388 cases that may indicate community transmission, an increase of 107 since yesterday’s report.
  • 575 people are in hospital, including 42 patients in intensive care.
  • Sadly, there have been 8 new deaths reported since yesterday. To date, 170 people have died from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria.
  • There are 7,449 cases currently active in Victoria. 5,628 people have recovered.
  • More than 1,746,900 tests have been processed – an increase of approximately 25,000 since yesterday
  • Further details can be found in the coronavirus (COVID-19) media release.

DHHS update: permitted worker scheme COVID-19

From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, employers that require their staff to attend a work site must issue a worker permit to their employees – this is the employer’s responsibility.

From Thursday 6 August, only the children of permitted workers and vulnerable kids will be able to access childcare and kinder. A new Access to Childcare Permit will be will required and will sit alongside the Permitted Worker Scheme.

  • Read the full details and download the worker permit on the DHHS website.
  • To view the COVID safe plan requirements and workplace attendance registers, visit the Business Victoria website

DHHS update: Reusable face masks for vulnerable Victorians

DHHS will be distributing 2.1 million reusable face masks to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Masks will be provided for distribution to community members in two ways:

  1. Local government and community health services will automatically receive an allocation of reusable masks based on their estimated catchment size. They will not be required to order masks.
  2. Agencies including general practices and pharmacies who work with vulnerable and/or Aboriginal Victorians are eligible to place orders for masks. For the list of agencies and what constitutes vulnerable Victorians, visit https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/reusable-face-masks-covid-19.

Orders can only be made using the online ordering form. There will be limits on the number of masks each agency will receive.

People who are eligible to receive a mask will need to visit their local government office, a community health centre, or local pharmacy to collect it. Individuals cannot order their own masks from DHHS.

Agencies that choose not to distribute masks can direct clients and consumers to their local government offices or community health centres.

For more information visit https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/reusable-face-masks-covid-19.

Stay at Home Directions

  • Victoria will enter a State of Disaster from 6pm on 2 August until Sunday 13 September. This will give police additional powers to make sure people are complying with public health directions.
  • Melbourne will move to stage 4 restrictions from 6pm on 2 August 2020.
  • A curfew will be implemented across Melbourne from 8pm to 5am. The only reason to leave home during these times will be work, medical care and caregiving.
  • New duration, distance and gathering limits will apply to shopping and exercise. Exercise will be limited to one hour a day within a five-kilometre radius of your home. Group size will be limited to two, regardless of if you are in the same household or not.
  • Shopping for essentials will be limited to one person per household per day. A five-kilometre limit will apply.
  • Regional Victoria will move to stage 3 restrictions from 11.59pm Wednesday 5 August 2020. There will only be four reasons to leave home; for food and supplies, medical care and caregiving, exercise and work or study, if you can’t work or study from home.
  • Mitchell Shire will remain at stage 3 restrictions.
  • All Victorian students will move to remote learning from Wednesday 5 August.
  • From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August 2020 all Victorian’s must wear a face covering when leaving home. More information on masks is available here

Advice for clinicians 

  • If you’re the doctor of a confirmed case, check in regularly on your patient – if they are not stable or improving, consider tertiary referral as your next step.
  • If referring your patients for COVID-19 testing, a list of testing locations can be found on DHHS' Getting tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) page.
  • Any coronavirus test reported by a laboratory as having detected SARS-CoV-2 on PCR will be treated as positive for the purposes of public health actions, regardless of repeat testing of the sample. It is not appropriate to advise a patient that a test is a false positive without prior consultation with the department. Current processing time for COVID-19 tests is one to three days. 
  • People who have been tested at a metropolitan retail testing site can call the dedicated Onsite Doctor Results Hotline on (03) 8669 0255 if they have been waiting more than five days for results. This hotline will operate from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm whilst the mobile testing sites continue to be operating.  
  • As the prevalence of COVID-19 remains low, practitioners are encouraged to consider testing for other infectious diseases as warranted by the patient’s clinical presentation and history, including travel history. Test for influenza in patients presenting with compatible respiratory symptoms and request a stool culture in patients presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms. 
  • Practitioners are encouraged to 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 anosmia, or loss of taste)
  • Note: In addition, testing is recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with COVID-19** AND who are close contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19; who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days; or 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. 
  • From 28 June 2020, all returned travellers in hotel quarantine to must participate in testing for coronavirus on day 11 to be eligible for release after 14 days. Those who refuse to be tested will be required to remain in quarantine for an additional 10 days – 24 in total - to ensure they pose no risk of introducing coronavirus to the Victorian community.
  • Victoria will commence limited saliva testing in hotspots as part of department-led enhanced surveillance activities. Nasopharyngeal swabs collected by trained healthcare workers remains the gold standard test.  

Resources


COVID-19 GP Respiratory Clinics

SEMPHN is working with health services across south eastern Melbourne to provide access to Commonwealth-funded COVID-19 GP Respiratory Clinics. 

Pathway

  • Patients are encouraged to use Health Direct’s symptom checker if they are feeling unwell. (If patients are experiencing difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000)).
  • If patients have identified symptoms of COVID-19, they are encouraged to call their local GP to see if testing is available. 
  • If a patient’s local GP is not testing, patients should book an appointment at a COVID-19 GP Respiratory Clinic OR visit their local hospital assessment centre (no call or booking required).

COVID-19 GP Respiratory Clinics available in south eastern Melbourne

ClinicAddressContact details

Star Health

Prahran Town Hall, 255A Chapel St, Prahran

Contact: 03 9525 1300
Website: https://www.starhealth.org.au/ 

Carrum Downs Medical Centre 113b Hall Road, Carrum Downs 

Contact: 03 9782 6088
Website: https://carrumdownsmedicalcentre.com 

Rosebud Skin Cancer Centre 1079 Point Nepean Road, Rosebud Contact: 0436 033 507
Website: https://www.rosebudskincancercentre.com.au/
Port Melbourne Medical Centre  Shop 1/405 Bay St, Port Melbourne 

Contact: 8686 0500
Website: https://portmelbournemedical.com.au/

Appointments

  • Patients should book ahead for an appointment at the COVID-19 GP Respiratory Clinics. This helps the clinics maintain the standards for physical distancing.
  • Patients do not need a referral from their GP to book an appointment at one of these clinics.
  • Appointments are available on weekends. 
  • Appointments are booked here.

How are COVID-19 GP Respiratory Clinics selected?

There is a rigorous process including a site inspection before approval. On occasion, these sites have been set up near other facilities and local spaces, and are structured to keep the local community as safe as possible. With the COVID priority now on testing and understanding the spread of the virus, screening and respiratory clinics are more important than ever. General practices are also involved in local community testing. 

COVID-19 hospital assessment centres are also available in south eastern Melbourne:

  • Alfred Hospital         
  • Casey Hospital - Monash Health
  • Dandenong Hospital - Monash Health
  • Frankston Hospital - Peninsula Health
  • Monash Medical Centre, Clayton - Monash Health
  • Rosebud Hospital - Peninsula Health

A map of testing centres in Victoria alongside more information is available on the DHHS website


PPE requests 

Masks may be requested when a practice, pharmacy or clinic is unable to secure commercial supply and they are working in higher-risk clinical areas, and with higher risk vulnerable patients. 

Read the full Department of Health advice on PHN supply of PPE here.

General Practices, ACCHOs and community pharmacies

Please email all requests for masks to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., including the name of your practice.

  • Surgical masks from the Commonwealth emergency stockpile are in stock for General Practices, community pharmacies, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) to work with at-risk or COVID-19 community members (NOT for commercial resale).
  • P2/N95 masks are now in stock. P2/N95 masks are not available for community pharmacies. PHNs are asked to conserve stocks of P2/N95 respirators as far as possible. They are only required for aerosol-generating procedures. 

Nurse Practitioner Practices and Allied Health

Please use this survey to request surgical masks

Nurse Practitioner owned or led primary care practices and Allied Health professionals are now eligible for limited access to surgical masks for the use of their staff when there is no available commercial supply and they are working in higher-risk clinical areas and with higher risk vulnerable patients. 

This specific allocation of surgical masks from the Commonwealth stockpile is intended for use only when services cannot be delayed for a symptomatic patient. In this instance, it is essential that the allied health professional use the masks provided in line with the advice for appropriate use of PPE, available at www.health.gov.au. If a practitioner is unwell they should not see patients.

Residential Aged Care Facilities

Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF) requiring PPE can request by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Department of Health will give priority where there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19.

NDIS providers

NDIS and disability support providers who are unable to obtain masks can submit a request by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more detail on how to apply and COVID-19 training see Department of Health advice here

Community services

Organisations in need of face masks to continue providing vital community services, please complete the State Government's request for PPE form online


PPE suppliers

SEMPHN has been distributing surgical and P2 masks as soon as they are supplied by the Commonwealth Department’s emergency stockpile.

However, we’re aware that there is an international shortage of PPE which is affecting primary care services in our region. 

The following supplier details may be useful. Click here to download the PPE supplier spreadsheet

Disclaimer:

These businesses are not affiliated with South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (SEMPHN). Please contact these businesses directly for more information. SEMPHN cannot answer any questions related to these suppliers. SEMPHN cannot guarantee the quality of the PPE supplied by these vendors. SEMPHN is not obligated to include any businesses in this list. 


General Practice Webinars 

SEMPHN is conducting general practice webinars over the coming weeks with the SEMPHN and general practice peers. 

General practitioners, practice nurses and practice managers are invited to join.  

Read the notes from the latest Weekly COVID-19 General Practice Webinar. 

Register for the next webinars via our Events calendar

For further information on this series of meetings contact Georgina Ladd on 8514 4423 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Access & Referral arrangements during COVID-19

As our Access & Referral team and providers adjust to new working environments, some organisations have advised they are experiencing issues with faxing referrals to A&R.  A new process has therefore been established that will facilitate a secure upload of referrals online. 

Ways you can refer to SEMPHN services:

  • Telephone: 1800 862 363 (8.30am-4.30pm weekdays)
  • Fax: 1300 354 053
  • Upload: Securely upload a referral form online

Visit our Access and Referral page for more information.


MBS COVID-19 Telehealth items 

Visit mbsonline.gov.au for a summary of the changes and a list of item numbers. 

Our telehealth HealthVitalIT article lists the items and requirements  (see the COVID19 section).  We are continually updating this article to add practical advice for remote consultations,  so it's a good idea to bookmark the page and check for updates every now and then. There are lots of useful tips in here. 

If you're using the bulk billed MBS telehealth items you can access HealthDirect's VideoCall platform for free via SEMPHN. For more information, see our Telehealth page.


Infection control training

COVID-19 infection control online training is available for health care workers in all settings. It covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19.

Modules available include:

  • infection prevention and control for COVID-19
  • training for aged care workers
  • training focused on rural and remote communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

Read more.

Register here


Immunisation service delivery and COVID-19

Visit SEMPHN's immunisation service delivery and COVID-19 page.

Visit SEMPHN's immunisation page


Access to HealthPathways Melbourne during COVID-19

SEMPHN, the Victorian Tasmania PHN Alliance and the Department of Health and Human Services are making Melbourne HealthPathways available for SEMPHN GPs and other clinicians to access freely during the period of COVID-19.

For specialist clinics pathways we encourage you to use to continue using the Statewide Referral Criteria on the SEMPHN Pathways page, as they have the most accurate SEMPHN region referral information.

Access: https://melbourne.healthpathways.org.au/ 

Login: Contact your Provider Support Officer on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the login details. 


National COVID-19 MATOD guidance now available

Interim Guidance for the delivery of medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence in response to COVID-19: a national response is now available to assist clinicians in ensuring continuity of medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence (also known as MATOD, or opioid pharmacotherapy) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance demonstrates how clinicians can adapt treatment during this time and is intended to be read alongside state and territory guidance issued in response to COVID-19.

It recognises that many jurisdictions are at different stages of response, and also that many of the communications from government authorities relate to regulatory or guideline changes, rather than focussing on aspects of clinical care. Victorian guidance is available here.


Access restrictions for older and vulnerable Victorians in facilities

DHHS enacted access limits in care facilities on 8 April which may impact the provision of services.

The State Government has limited access to care facilities across the State, including residential aged care and other facilities, which may impact GPs and Service Providers.

DHHS’s Frequently Asked Questions (which explain the changes in more simple language) can be found here. There is a particular focus on up-to-date flu vaccinations.


Resources 

Children (2-12 years)

If you are a health professional or service provider who works with children or young people, a number of resources on COVID-19 are now available. These resources help explain what children need to know and how to have that conversation with them. 

For service providers, GPs and other health organisations Emerging Minds has developed resources that are available on their website - https://emergingminds.com.au/

For younger children, a booklet has been developed for practitioners. Download the booklet here

Young people (12-24 years)

ReachOut and headspace have digital support forums (peer-based and moderated) with spaces specific to the pandemic. Additionally, online support for parents is available through ReachOut Parents (Parent Coaching online) and eheadspace (Family and Friends support). 

For access to youth mental health support visit https://www.semphn.org.au/commissioning/mental-health/youth-mental-health.html.

Other resources

Plain English

Other languages 


We're still here to help

At SEMPHN, we are committed to keeping our people healthy so that they can continue to support the health workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

As such, our employees are now taking the responsible step of working remotely to limit the spread of the virus.  We are limiting contact, looking at alternative ways of working with stakeholders, reducing or cancelling face to face meetings and protecting our people, families and service providers to continue to conduct our business.  

Thank you for your understanding as we change our business model in the short term, in an effort to better contain the virus.

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Health professionals can also sign-up to receive our COVID-19 email here


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