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COVID-19: Latest news for general practices

This page is continually being added to and updated. We encourage health professionals to also view COVID-19 for Health Professionals.

COVID-19 Statistics for our region

25 January Update

Booster Vaccination Timing

It was announced last week that this period would be shortening to three months for those being vaccinated at state facilities. Given this, GPs are now able to administer booster vaccinations at a three month interval prior to the planned implementation date in general practice on 31 January. Patients who received their second dose four or more months ago should be prioritised for booster vaccinations. 

ATAGI Statement on Novavax (24 Jan)

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine has been provisionally approved by the TGA for vaccination of patients 18 years and older. ATAGI recommends a two-dose schedule with a minimum gap of three weeks between doses. Novavax can also be administered as part of a mixed dose schedule, or as a third dose for immuncompromised patients. Novavax is not approved as a booster vaccine. The Department of Health has released a factsheet on the Novavax vaccine, and a patient resource regarding vaccination with Novavax.

Self-Managing Multilingual Resources

The Department of Health has released a suite of multilingual resources for COVID-19 positive patients recovering at home. These resources have been developed using the RACGP Patient Guidelines and include information on symptoms, isolation, mental health support and case escalation, in addition to contact information for assistance in other languages

RACGP COVID-19 Update 31 January

Monday 31 January at 7:00pm the NSW Faculty of the RACGP will be joined by a panel of experts to discuss the latest on COVID-19 management, vaccination and guideline update and GP Helpline updates.The session will be recorded and made available online the following day. Register online now.

GP Management of COVID-19 Patients

Our GP clinical advisor, Dr Michael Crampton, has put together a point-in-time guide for GPs regarding the practice and patient management of COVID-19 positive cases. This resource outlines important HealthPathways for case management, as well as key resources from government agencies. Additional resources can be found on our Caring for COVID-Positive Patients in the Community webpage.

Deputy CMO Primary Care Update

On Thursday 27 January at 11:30am a response update for GPs will be held by Professor Michael Kidd for GPs regarding the latest information on COVID-19. Professor Kidd will be joined by Dr Lucas de Toca.

Recently Updated Resources 

20 January Update

Updates to Telehealth and MBS

The Minister for Health has recently announced an additional $24 million for telehealth to support GPs, specialists and their patients. This temporary measure will enable GPs to undertake longer telephone consultations (level C), and specialist medical practitioners to provide telehealth consultations to hospital in-patients when their doctor cannot attend the hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions. For more information on the upcoming changes visit the MBS website.

COVID-19 Patient Management Resource

Our GP clinical advisor, Dr Michael Crampton, has put together a point-in-time guide for GPs regarding the practice and patient management of COVID-19 positive cases. This resource outlines important HealthPathways for case management, as well as key resources from government agencies. Additional resources can be found on our Caring for COVID-Positive Patients in the Community webpage.

Booster Shots for Vulnerable Patients

GPs are reminded to contact their vulnerable patients to ensure they are booked in for a third-dose vaccination, in addition a booster shot four months after their third-dose. ATAGI has released a provider guide to COVID-19 vaccination of people with immunocompromise which outlines the differences between a third-dose vaccination and a booster shot, in addition to dosage and timing information.

17 January Update

Sotrovimab Referral for Eligible Patients

Sotrovimab must be administered to eligible patients within 5 days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms to help reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death. HealthPathways provides Sotrovimab advice, eligibility criteria and local HiTH referral information for patients on the COVID-19 Active Case Management Pathway - navigate toReferrals > advice about access to monoclonal antibody therapy for eligible patients.

COVID-19 patient management resource

Our GP clinical advisor, Dr Michael Crampton, has put together a point-in-time guide for GPs regarding the practice and patient management of COVID-19 positive cases. This resource outlines important HealthPathways for case management, as well as key resources from government agencies. Additional resources can be found on our Caring for COVID-Positive Patients in the Community webpage.

RACGP Webinar TONIGHT

Tonight at 7:00pm the NSW Faculty of the RACGP will be joined by a panel of experts to discuss the latest COVID-19 news about rapid antigen testing and notifications, the latest risk exposure matrix and infection control, and boosters and post-COVID-19 vaccinations. The session will be recorded and made available online tomorrow. Register online.

Recently Updated Resources 

Deputy CMO Primary Care Update

On Thursday 20 January at 11:30am a response update for GPs will be held by Professor Michael Kidd for GPs regarding the latest information on COVID-19. Professor Kidd will be joined by Dr Lucas de Toca and Dr Ruth Vine, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health.

13 January Update

Mandatory Self-Reporting of Positive RAT

NSW residents must self-report a positive COVID-19 result received via a rapid antigen test (RAT) if they do not intend to confirm the result via a PCR test. Positive results can be registered through the Service NSW app (click COVID-19 Resources tab on a mobile device) or via the Service NSW website. Residents aged 16 and over are required to report positive results within 24 hours. It is possible to register a positive result on someone else's behalf, if they are unable to do so themselves. Once a positive result is registered, the patient will receive an SMS or email including links to patient resources.

Social Support for COVID-19 patients 

It can be confusing to know what practical support is out there for patients who are isolating at home due to COVID-19. The My Health Connector website can assist your patients in accessing support services that can assist them with critical practical needs such as essential food or household items, or other personal assistance.

Head to Health Reminder

Rising COVID-19 case numbers may be causing some people anxiety, stress or worry. The Penrith Head to Health CentreHead to Health Hawkesbury Pop Up and Head to Health Phoneline is available for patients who may need support. These services are free for people experiencing mental health concerns, and no Centrelink, Health Care Card or referral is required. Patients can call 1800 595 212 directly to speak to a trained mental health professional. 

12 January Update

Mandatory Self-Reporting of Positive RAT

From today, NSW residents must self-report a positive COVID-19 result received via a rapid antigen test (RAT). Positive results can be registered through the Service NSW app (click COVID-19 Resources tab on a mobile device) or via the Service NSW website. Residents aged 16 and over are required to report positive results within 24 hours. Failure to report a positive test could result in a $1,000 fine. It is possible to register a positive result on someone else's behalf, if they are unable to do so themselves. Once a positive result is registered, the patient will receive an SMS or email including links to patient resources.

RACGP Webinar Recording from 10 Jan

The RACGP webinar for GPs held Monday 10 January is now available online. This webinar covers the latest news about the Omicron variant, the management of healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19, the care of children exposed to COVID-19 and how HealthPathways can support GPs in NSW to care for COVID-19 positive patients in the community.

Isolation and De-isolation Guidelines

NSW Health has released a release and recovery from
COVID-19 guideline
 which details the steps patients must undertake around isolation and de-isolation once they have received a positive COVID-19 test. Check the NSW Health website for the latest COVID-19 self-isolation information and support.This information, along with updated case management strategies is available on the COVID-19 Self-care Patient Triage and Support HealthPathway (in the What's Changed: Read about new and important changes section)

Paediatric Pfizer Reporting to AIR

All vaccinations, including those provided to children 5-11 years, must be recorded on the AIR under the same Pfizer code used for adult vaccinations. Ensure you are recording the correct batch number for the administered vaccine in your practice management software to distinguish between paediatric and adult doses.

Caring for Patients Post COVID-19

The RACGP has created a guideline for caring for patients with post COVID-19 conditions which contains information for GPs providing care for patients who have previously tested positive to COVID-19 or have a history suggestive of undiagnosed COVID-19 and have – or are at risk of – post COVID-19 conditions at any point after the initial acute infection.

Latest Patient Resources

10 January Update

Restrictions in NSW have changed (8 Jan), check the NSW Government site for guidance. There are also new national testing and isolation protocols (7 Jan).

RACGP Webinar TONIGHT

Tonight at 7:00pm the NSW Faculty of the RACGP will be joined by a panel of experts, including Dr Kerry Chant, to discuss the latest news about the Omicron variant, the management of healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19, the care of children exposed to COVID-19 and how HealthPathways can support GPs in caring for COVID-19 positive patients in the community. Register online.

NEW COVID-19 Case Management Pathways

Two NEW HealthPathways have been developed in accordance with the latest NSW Health guidelines for case management of COVID-19 positive patients in the community. 

The COVID-19 Self-care Patient Triage and Support Pathway details the process GPs can take in identifying patient management steps and treatment plans, as well as setting up processes for your whole practice to triage COVID-19 positive patients able to self-care. 

The COVID-19 Active Case Management Pathway outlines the case management steps for patients with significant symptoms or risk factors for severe COVID‑19 who are unable to self-manage and require monitoring.

Patients, and GPs with concerns about a patient's health, can contact the NSW Health COVID Support Line on 1800 960 933 from 8:30 am - 8:30 pm, 7 days a week, including public holidays.

Mental Health Support for Patients and Staff

Rising COVID-19 cases may be causing patients anxiety or stress. Patients can call the Head to Health phoneline on 1800 595 212 from Monday to Friday, 8.30am-5:00pm (except public holidays) to speak to a trained mental health professional from our region, who will guide them to the right mental health support for their needs. This may include referring them to existing services or to see a clinician through the Penrith Health to Health Centre, or the Head to Health Pop Up hub in Hawkesbury.

GPs can also call 1800 595 212 to seek advice about what mental health services are available in our region or to refer a patient. Telehealth and face-to-face appointments are available without the long waiting lists some people may experiencing to see local clinicians.

Vaccination for Ages 5-11

From this week Pfizer vaccinations are available for all children aged 5-11 years. ATAGI have released updated guidance regarding dosage and second-dose timing for this age group. The vaccine should be delivered on a two-dose schedule, eight weeks apart. The dose interval may be shortened to 3 weeks in an outbreak situation. Additional information on paediatric vaccination is available on the COVID-19 Vaccination Resources HealthPathway.

Vaccine Manufacture and Thaw-by Dates

It is vital that vaccination providers are aware of the differences between the thaw use-by date and the manufacture expiry date for the mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer). The manufacture expiry date on the vial indicates the expiry for that batch of the product. The thaw/defrost use-by date is the final date that the product can be used after it has been removed from the freezer or ultra-low storage to commence thawing. Whichever date is earliest is the latest date the vaccines can be administered to a patient.

Rapid Antigen Testing Reporting

On 6 January the Prime Minister announced that the Commonwealth Government would be working with primary care to develop a system for reporting positive results from Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) without confirmation from a PCR test. We understand that NSW Health is currently working on a self-reporting system for patients who test positive on self-administered RAT tests and more information regarding this process will be available this week. 

Mandatory Vaccination for Primary Care

All primary care service providers across NSW will be required to have completed a two dose COVID-19 vaccination schedule by 31 January in accordance with NSW Health mandatory vaccination requirements. The revised Public Health Order includes health practitioners working in private and community settings such as GPs, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals. It also includes support staff working in these practices such as reception staff.

Deputy CMO Primary Care Update

On Thursday 13 January at 11:30am a response update for GPs will be held by Professor Michael Kidd for GPs regarding the latest information on COVID-19. Professor Kidd will be joined by Dr Lucas de Toca.

6 January Update

Resources for Managing COVID-19 in the Community

Information for GPs on how to manage low to medium-risk patients with COVID-19 in the community, and how to escalate care of higher risk patients, is available on HealthPathways under the COVID-19 Clinical Care pathway.

The NSW Health website advises COVID-positive patients with chronic health conditions to contact their GP or the NSW Health COVID-19 Care at Home Support Line on 1800 960 933. Given the recent wait times for PCR testing across the state, practices may be contacted by patients who have tested positive using a rapid antigen test, rather than a PCR test and therefore may not have received any information from NSW Health. Patient resources are available on HealthPathways under Case Management Tools and Resources.

In addition, we have also developed a new page on our website for GPs which provides resources for managing COVID-19 at home as per the NSW Health guidelines released at the end of last year. This page also provides links to resources that can be provided to COVID-positive patients who ask for advice regarding quarantine, testing or case escalation. 

Patients, and GPs with concerns about a patient's health, can contact the NSW Health Support Line on 1800 960 933 from 8:30 am - 8:30 pm, 7 days a week, including public holidays.

Webinar: RACGP NSW COVID-19 Update

On Monday 10 January ad 7:00pm the NSW Faculty of the RACGP will be joined by a panel of experts, including Dr Kerry Chant, to discuss the latest news about the Omicron variant, the management of healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19, the care of children exposed to COVID-19 and how Healthpathways can support GPs in NSW to care for COVID-19 positive patients in the community. Register online.

NEW National Test and Isolate Protocols

The Department of Health has released New COVID-19 Test & Isolate National Protocols on 1 January which outlines the new definition of a close contact, and what actions should be undertaken by close contacts of various risk levels. There is also new Testing and Quarantine requirements available for positive cases, close and casuals contacts.

COVID Care in the Community Webinar

On 21 December we delivered a webinar regarding the changes made by NSW Health to the management of low-risk COVID-19 patients. This webinar is relevant for all practice staff and will assist practices to become familiar with the COVID-19 Case Management Pathway and new patient workflow for COVID-19 care in the community. This webinar is available online.

ATAGI Booster Gap Update (24 December)

Given the ongoing risk of transmission of both the Omicron and Delta variants, ATAGI now recommends COVID-19 booster vaccination for anyone aged 18 years or older who completed their two-dose COVID-19 vaccination schedule 4 or more months ago.

Vaccination for Primary Care

All primary care service providers across NSW will be required to have completed a two dose COVID-19 vaccination schedule by 31 January in accordance with NSW Health mandatory vaccination requirements. The revised Public Health order includes health practitioners working in private and community settings such as GPs, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals. It also includes support staff working in these practices such as reception staff.

CEC Infection Prevention and Control

The Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) updated their COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Manual on 27 December (it is under review as of 4 January 2022). The latest update includes additional guidance on isolation and testing requirements.

Given the escalating case numbers in NSW, practices should assess patients for COVID-19 exposure prior to entering your practice. Telehealth remains the recommended strategy for consultations if patients have respiratory symptoms. Ensure you are using P2/N95 masks and goggles or face shields during any face-to-face contact with patients.

Deputy CMO Primary Care Update

On Thursday 6 January at 11:30am a response update for GPs will be held by Professor Michael Kidd for GPs regarding the latest information on COVID-19. Professor Kidd will be joined by Dr Lucas de Toca and Dr Steph Davis. 

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