COVID-19 - Information for health professionals
Key reminders for general practice
- 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 daily COVID-19 email here.
- Free support is available for general practice staff who may be feeling stressed or worried.
Update 28 May
- As of 27 May 2020, the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Victoria is 1,618 which is a net increase of eight since yesterday.
- Two new cases were linked to the Lynden Aged Care outbreak, one detected amongst people who are in hotel quarantine and four detected from routine testing. One case is under investigation.
- The total number of cases linked to the Cedar Meats outbreak remains at 111 (unchanged).
- 183 cases have been acquired in Victoria where the source of infection is unknown, an increase of one since yesterday’s report.
- Eight people are in hospital, including three people in intensive care. 19 people have died. 1,539 people have recovered.
- Of the total 1,618 cases, there have been 1,340 in metropolitan Melbourne and 235 in regional Victoria. A number of cases remain under investigation.
- There have been 183 confirmed cases in healthcare workers, an increase of one since yesterday’s report.
- More than 470,000 test results have been received by the department since 1 January 2020 (an increase of over 33,000 since yesterday’s report). Today’s increase is related to a data transfer arrangement between a laboratory provider and the department for over 20,000 negative results from the last two months.
- The Victorian Government has announced a gradual easing of restrictions throughout the state from 1 June, including social events, sport, recreation, cafes, restaurants, travel and entertainment. Visit https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorias-restriction-levels-covid-19 for more information.
Advice for clinicians
- Victoria is aiming to fully resume all elective surgery lists by the end of July 2020. Resuming elective surgery that was paused in early 2020 will then be considered.
- Due to the current high volume of COVID-19 tests being processed, results may take longer than usual, up to five 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, until 5 June 2020.
- 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*
- Acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or anosmia)
- 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.
- If referring your patients for COVID-19 testing, a list of testing locations can be found on the Getting tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) page.
- The following clinical resources have been updated on the Health services and general practice - coronavirus disease (COVID-19) page:
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) General practice quick reference guide; Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Guidelines for health services and general practitioners; Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Infection control guidelines; Guide to PPE items and levels of protection.
- Up-to-date epidemiological data is available.
- Look for signs of mental distress in your patients and encourage them to take a look at DHHS' coronavirus mental health webpage
- Be aware of the increased risk for family violence during this difficult time. Familiarise yourself with the services available for your patients.
Update on restrictions since 12 May
From 11:59pm tonight, in Victoria, the following restrictions have been eased:
- visiting friends and family – with a maximum gathering of up to ten outdoors and having up to five visitors in your home.
- Weddings can now have up to 10 guests indoors (30 outdoors)
- Up to 20 people will be able to attend funerals indoors (30 outdoors)
More outdoor recreational activities will also be allowed:
- walking groups, fishing, hiking and golf. These activities will be subject to physical distancing to help keep people safe.
Victorians are urged to use common sense. You should only be undertaking these activities if you really need to.
The new restrictions will be in place until 11.59pm on Sunday 31 May.
For more information read the Premier's Statement.
SEMPHN is working with health services across south eastern Melbourne to provide access to Commonwealth-funded COVID-19 GP Respiratory Clinics.
- 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
|Prahran Town Hall, 255A Chapel St, Prahran||
Contact: 03 9525 1300
|Carrum Downs Medical Centre||113b Hall Road, Carrum Downs||
Contact: 03 9782 6088
|Rosebud Skin Cancer Centre||1079 Point Nepean Road, Rosebud||Contact: 0436 033 507
|Port Melbourne Medical Centre||Shop 1/405 Bay St, Port Melbourne||
Contact: 8686 0500
- 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.
Read the full Department of Health advice on PHN supply of PPE here.
For General Practices, ACCHOs and community pharmacies
- 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).
- Protective eyewear only available for General Practices, and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO).
- P2 masks are now in stock. P2 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.
For Residential Aged Care Facilities
For Nurse Practioner Practices and Allied Health
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 are 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.
For NDIS providers
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.
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.
|Suppliers||Contact details||Available PPE|
|Ph: 0422 344 955
|Sanitex||Ph: 0472 642 988
|Safemaster||Ph: 02 8796 9040
|Jaegar Australia||W: http://www.jaegaraustralia.com.au/||
|Key Promotional Products||Ph: 07 5573 4211||
|Westlab||Ph: 1800 358 101
Ph: (07) 3608 4247
|Bulk Buys||Ph: 04 1136 5122
|Avid Edge||Ph: 1300 366 884
|Happy Hygiene||P: 0419 323 548
|Scent Australia||Ph: 1300 731 680
Weekly COVID-19 General Practice Webinars
SEMPHN is conducting weekly general practice webinars over the coming weeks with the SEMPHN CEO, Board Chair and general practice peers.
General practitioners 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.
SEMPHN 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.
Advice on the use of ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
International health officials are reportedly advising against the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which includes ibuprofen and aspirin.
There is little evidence or published studies that show taking ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, leads to an increased risk of complications or death when taken during COVID-19 infection.
If any evidence emerges to support a different approach our advice will be updated.
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.
Infection control training module
The Department of Health has developed online training: How to protect yourself and the people you are caring for from infection with COVID–19. The module takes approximately 20-30 minutes, with a quiz at the end.
Register here to do the training. Please share the link with care workers across all sectors including health, aged care and disability.
The training module covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control (IPC) for COVID–19 including:
- COVID–19 – what is it?
- Signs and symptoms
- Keeping safe – protecting yourself and others
- Myth busting
At the end of this course you should be able to:
- Understand the basics about the COVID–19 virus, including how it is spread
- Describe what you can do to protect yourself and others
- Know what to do if you develop symptoms
- Know what to do if the person you are caring for develops symptoms
- Tell the difference between myths and facts of COVID–19
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.
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.
- New COVID-19 resources have been developed to provide guidance to GPs and health services including chronic disease management, palliative and end of life care (downloads as Word document), and advice for immunisations services.
- Evidence-based COVID-19 clinical guidance is available here.
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.
- New mental health and wellbeing advice has been updated with a number of electronic resources available.
- A detailed FAQ on the stay at home directions.
- COVID-19 explained in easy to understand English
- Self-isolation explained in easy to understand English.
- COVID-19 translated information for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, health professionals and industry.
- Resources in 50 languages for the general public in Australia.
- The New South Wales government health website also includes resources in English and 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.
Health professionals can also sign-up to receive our daily COVID-19 email here.
Events and Education See all
Webinar (AM): Victorian Integrated Care Community of Practice Event - Casey, Cardinia and Dandenong RegionsSee event
South Eastern Melbourne PHN acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land our catchment covers, the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people. We pay respect to them, their culture and their Elders past, present and future, and uphold their relationship to this land.
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