Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans and can be spread from person to person. COVID-19 is an evolving international health concern. 

COVID-19 Testing

Several COVID-19 testing facilities in Western Sydney have been established to test patients who are suspected of or have symptoms relating to COVID-19. Patients should visit a clinic or collection centre if they have a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath and meet the current NSW Health testing criteria.

The test is FREE and generally takes less than 10 minutes. Results should be available between 24 to 72 hours after testing. During this time patients are required to self-isolate until they receive their test results.

If a patient returns a positive COVID-19 test result, it’s a requirement to notify the Public Health Unit.

Find out more about these facilities, including if a GP referral is required, how and when to make an appointment, locations and operating hours on our COVID-19 Testing Locations in Western Sydney webpage

COVID-19 Information for our Health Professionals

We recommend health care professionals to stay up-to-date with the latest advice and information. As information changes we will update GPs as it becomes available. 

COVID-19 Telehealth

Temporary MBS telehealth and telephone items are available to support the response to COVID-19 and have been extended until 31 March 2021.

On Monday 20 July it became a legislative requirement that GPs and Other Medical Practitioner working in general practice can only perform a telehealth or telephone service where they have an existing relationship with the patient. There are limited exemptions to this requirement.

The GP bulk billing incentive will double for GPs to look after pensioners, under-16s and concession card holders.

For more information is available below:

A consumer facsheet for COVID-19 Telehleath Services is also available.

The DoH has also created a COVID-19 Primary Care Info Graphic online. 

On Sunday 2 August, the Government announced they will provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subject to further restrictions in areas impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

New MBS items will be available under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS initiative (Better Access) from Friday 7 August until 31 March 2021. 

The additional 10 sessions will be available to:

  • patients in areas with public health orders in place that restrict movement within the state or territory at any time from 1 July to 31 March (e.g. lockdown or stay at home orders); and 
  • patients that are required to isolate or quarantine under public health orders. 

In order to access these sessions, patients will be required to: 

  • have a Mental Health Treatment Plan;
  • have used all of their 10 sessions in the calendar year; and 
  • undertake a review with their GP after their tenth session. 

To help keep GPs updated with these changes to telehealth we’ve created a COVID-19 MBS telehealth webpage that lists useful item numbers for your practice.

The DoH has developed a COVID-19 Telehealth Items Guide that provides GPs with valuable supporting information, on the requirements associated with these temporary items.

Healthdirect video call is a freeeasy-to-use, trusted and reliable telehealth option for both GPs and patients to conduct video consultations. Download the New Organisation setup details online to get started. 

Healthdirect video call service resources include:

View this short video to learn more about the Healthdirect Video Call service

We can also help set-up your practice details by emailing support@wentwest.com.au or call 8811 7117. If require further assistance, contact your Practice Development Officer 

The RACGP have created resources to help GPs navigate these changes with the current COVID-19 situation. General practices are rapidly changing the way care is accessed and delivered to ensure the safety of their practice teams, patients and the broader community. One of these changes is increasing the ability for general practice consultations to be conducted via telehealth, these include:

APNA telehealth online training is now available for nurses interested in learning more about providing telehealth consults during the COVID-19 pandemic. This interactive module will provide you with the knowledge and skills to facilitate telehealth consults, within a primary health care setting.

In response to the rapid expansion of telehealth services, NBN Co have announced it is upgrading NBN speed for Australian GP clinics at no extra cost for a period of five months.

As an essential service, telehealth providers can also receive an enhanced fault rectification service that ensures faults are fixed within a specified timeframe. In addition, this comes with prioritised connections and fault resolutions case management through the NBN Co’s Business Operations Centre.

The provision of high speed broadband will allow practices around the country to deliver multiple telehealth consultations simultaneously and ensure your patients receive the care and treatment they need at this crucial time.

To access the upgrade, contact your internet provider. To find out more information visit NBN website.

As part of the National Health Plan, electronic prescribing has been fast tracked. Work to upgrade health care providers’ clinical software is under way and is expected to be ready by May 2020. A factsheet providing more information is available online. 

The Department of Health have created some useful resources that provide information on issues such as PBS claiming arrangements, supply of medicine to patients, signing for receipts of a prescription, repeats and existing prescriptions.

Information for your Practice

 

The Department of Health (DoH) have updated the guidance document: Distribution of PPE through PHNs: Tranche 4, surgical masks and P2/N95 respirators for general practice, community pharmacy, and allied health, to reflect changes in advice on mask wearing in the context of increased community transmission of COVID-19.

Health providers are still encouraged to source PPE through their normal commercial means in the first instance, to conserve the National Medical Stockpile’s limited stock of PPE for front line health workers.

You can view previous versions of DoH’s Distribution of PPE through PHNs guidance below:

The RACGP has a suite of videos on the appropriate use of  PPE and hand sanitiser to help protect yourself, practice staff and patients during COVID-19:

Full Version- How to use PPE 
Part 1 – How to sanitise your hands
Part 2 – How to don PPE
Part 3 – How to fit a P2/N95 mask
Part 4 – How to remove and dispose of PPE

As a Primary Health Network (PHN), we need to use discretion when providing PPE to health care providers, including increased quantities where we deem appropriate, recognising that each provider’s needs will be on a case-by-case basis.

Surgical and P2 masks have been supplied in limited numbers to PHNs for distribution to general practice, pharmacy and health care staff who are exposed to at risk customers.

  • To register your request for surgical masks please complete our Mask Request Form. However before submitting your request for masks, please refer to the PHN locator link to check if you are in the Western Sydney area. Any requests submitted outside our area will not be processed.
  • DoH has advised that stocks from the National Medical Stockpile are limited and masks should only be used in accordance with the guidance provided by The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).
  • DoH has provided the following useful resource about the use of face masks and respirators in the context of COVID-19.

Our Practice Development Officers have been coordinating the distribution of these masks, adhering to the DoH Distribution of PPE through PHNs guidance.

As per the department’s guidelines, we are prioritising dispatch to practices, pharmacies and above-mentioned health care service providers in Western Sydney who are:

  • in these areas where there is limited supply,
  • have a population that may be more likely to have been exposed to COVID-19; and/or
  • have unusual numbers of patients presenting with respiratory symptoms.

Should you have any questions or inquiries, please contact our Helpdesk on 8811 7117.

Practices should refer the NSW Health website for the latest COVID-19 testing advice for health professionals.

  • Arrange Telehealth assessment of patients with respiratory symptoms if they meet the Suspect Case Definition.
  • Arrange further assessment and testing, either at your practice (noting the infection control requirements and you will need to organise specimen collection) a COVID-19 Pathology Collection Centre, GP-led Respiratory Clinic or COVID-19 Clinic. Visit our COVID-19 Testing Locations in Western Sydney webpage for locations, opening hours and referral requirements. 
  • If you are notified of a positive COVID-19 test result, need advice, or have concerns about the ability of a patient to self-isolate, e.g. if they live in a residential facility, contact the Public Health Unit. In NSW calling 1300 066 055 will direct to your local Public Health Unit.

We have provided an adaptable Triage Guide for COVID-19 to suit your practice when triaging patient.

Translated COVID-19 Testing in Western Sydney Flyers

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) have created a COVID-19 Testing in Western Sydney flyer which is available in nine languages to help community members access important information regarding testing requirements and locations in our region.

This flyer is available in the following languages:

Testing and Triage Resources

In a state-wide effort to provide primary care providers with consistent and up to date information and clinical guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic, a COVID-19 Response Package consisting of a range of COVID-19 specific pathways are now available on Western Sydney HealthPathways. 

You can read more about this Response Package online or access these pathways directly in Western Sydney HealthPathways.

As our focus is to address the health and needs of the Western Sydney community, your mental health and well-being as primary health care professionals are just as important. We understand that you are usually on the frontline of social crises, such as bushfire disaster and pandemic, not only witnessing the physical health impacts but the emotional impacts of these events.

It is important that during this time of increased community anxiety that you remember to take care of yourself. Resources are available to support practices on our Business Continuity for Practices webpage

Health professionals involved in the care of people with disability diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can call the COVID-19 Health Professionals National Disability Advisory Service during the new operating times of 8am to 9pm (AEST) Monday to Friday on 1800 131 330.

Calls to the service are answered by health professionals with disability service qualifications and experience working with people with disability.

Specific support may be required to address communication and management issues, such as behaviours of concern and the reduction of risk to the patient and staff involved in the process. Healthdirect Australia have created a poster for GPs which you can display in your consultation rooms.

Find out more by visiting the Healthdirect Australia website

What if your patient is an international student and has no Medicare?

Most people that are not eligible for Medicare will have health or travel insurance. For those that do not have adequate insurance coverage, NSW Health will waive these costs to help support international students. This includes the waiving of payment and debt recovery procedures for ambulance transfers of people suspected to have COVID-19 infection, who are taken to NSW Health facilities for assessment.

If your patient test positive to COVID-19 and require treatment, NSW Health will also waive these costs. This includes waiving payment and debt recovery procedures for people seeking treatment at NSW Health facilities.

These arrangements have been put in place to ensure payment issues are not a barrier for people from overseas with respiratory symptoms seeking early medical advice.

For more information on student support visit NSW Government website or call 1800 020 080.

In an effort to help practices keep up-to-date with Government information and changes relating to COVID-19, we have created a Business Continuity for Practices webpage.

The webpage provides information on telehealth changes, preparing your practice and information and support for business continuity.

Pen CS launched the COVID-19 National Guidance Topbar App. This app provides guidance, key links and resources for practitioners surrounding COVID-19. Practitioners have access to key information from the following organisations, straight from Topbar:

  • Australian Government DoH
  • World Health Organization
  • RACGP
  • State/Territories Departments of Health
  • Primary Health Networks

The App is available to all Topbar users.

COVID-19 Training and Education

The DoH is hosting a series of webinars for primary care practitioners working on the national COVID-19 response. For more information on upcoming webinars and previous recordings, visit the website.

The RACGP has an ongoing series of COVID-19 podcasts (under webinars, podcasts and education) to assist you with the latest information. Most of them are 5–10 minutes long, you can listen to them anytime. Recently, the Just a GP hosts spoke to two GPs in Western Sydney, Dr Kean-Seng Lim and WentWest Board member, Dr Wally Jammal, about telehealth changes due to COVID-19.

These episodes are:

  • How we do it, features Dr Wally Jammal and discusses how GP’s can use telehealth to adapt to the COVID pandemic.
  • Telehealth good for now, but not forever, features Dr Kean-Seng Lim and discusses where telehealth fits in the broader scheme of general practice.

The Western Sydney Local Health District have also launched their very own podcast called Western Sydney Health Check. The first episode explores their organisation’s response to COVID-19, featuring Chief Executive Graeme Loy.

The Department of Health is encouraging care workers across the primary care sector, including general practice, pharmacy, allied health, Aboriginal Health Workers and other primary care workers to attend the free COVID-19 – Infection Control Online Training Module.

This module covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control topics including:

  • COVID-19 – what is it?
  • signs and symptoms
  • protecting yourself and others and
  • myth Busting

The module takes approximately 30 minutes.

NSW Health together with the RACGP has provided webinar updates on the outbreak of COVID-19 for GPs.

Recordings of previous webinars can be found below:

Questions and answers from these sessions are also available online.

Employment Impact in Private Practice during COVID-19 with Q&A webinar – HotDoc, Wednesday 8 April.

Resources available

Posters for your practice: 

Posters and other resources are available on the NSW Health website. Many of these resources are available in multiple languages.

Help stop the spread: 

Mental Health: 

Key Sources

COVID-19 is an evolving international health concern. We are publishing regular updates on this page, but encourage health professionals to also view the latest advice and information from NSW Health, DoH and the RACGP, as well as current clinical guidance from our HealthPathways’ website.

COVID-19 Information for Our Community

To help you keep up-to-date with the latest advice about COVID-19, we’ve sourced a range of information and resources for you and your family.

What You Need to Know

As COVID-19 continually evolves, we will be providing information from NSW Government and other health organisations on restrictions, guidelines and advice, to ensure you and your family are informed with the latest updates.

Travel and transport

You’ve had the COVID-19 test. Now what?

There are a number of ways you can access information on what happens now and what you need to do after having a COVID-19 test. 

A series of videos about Home-isolation during COVID-19 have been provided from the Western Sydney Local Health District to help support you and your family with coping COVID-19 during the time. Each video will touch on mental health and productivity, fitness and exercising and the importance of keeping you and your family safe, healthy and connected when isolating from home.

COVID-19 is impacting all Australians. However, with restrictions and self-isolation these can particular challenge older Australians. To support older Australians in Western Sydney, information and resources have been provided from Department of Health (DOH) to help you or your family member seek advice on how to cope during this time.

What if I don’t have Medicare?

Students that are not eligible for Medicare will have health or travel insurance. For those that do not have adequate insurance coverage, NSW Health will waive these costs to help support international students. This includes the waiving of payment and debt recovery procedures for ambulance transfers of people suspected to have COVID-19 infection, who are taken to NSW Health facilities for assessment.

These arrangements have been put in place to ensure payment issues are not a barrier for people from overseas with respiratory symptoms seeking early medical advice.

If you test positive to COVID-19 and require treatment, NSW Health will also waive these costs. This includes waiving payment and debt recovery procedures for people seeking treatment at NSW Health facilities.

For more information on student support visit NSW Government website or call Study Australia Partners on 1300 981 621.

Where to Seek Health Advice

If you’re feeling unwell and are unsure whether to see your doctor or manage your symptoms at home, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or:

  • Call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 for people with questions regarding prevention and the spread of COVID-19
  • Call the 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, seven days a week.
  • Call the Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line on 1800 171 866. The Support Line provides information, support and connection to Older Australians. their families, friends and carers. The free service is available Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 6pm.

The healthdirect website includes the following information and tools:

COVIDSafe App

The Australian Government has released an official app with the information you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19). You can download the Coronavirus Australia app and theCOVIDSafe app to help protect you and your family.

MyAus is a multi-lingual resource app that provides resources and information about COVID-19 in over 20 different languages. This app is the first multi-lingual feature that allows users to switch languages when they like without compromising their experience. To access the latest information of COVID-19 in your language, download the MyAus app from the Apple Store or Google Play.

WhatsApp channel

The Australian Government has started an official WhatsApp channel with the information you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19).

Message +61 400 253 787 or go to aus.gov.au/whatsapp in your web browser to get coronavirus information you can trust from the official Australian Government chatbot.

WhatsApp is available from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Telehealth is a secure and easy way to connect with a health professional through phone consultation and/or video conferencing. It offers benefits for patients, health care workers and the health system through improved access, availability, and efficiency of quality health care. Telehealth consultations are bulk billed to Medicare which contributes to providing efficient and effective quality care that works with but does not replace face-to-face consultation. Telehealth helps to remove the stress of living well by using technology we have in our everyday lives, to help us look after our health more easily.

How to book an appointment?
If you are interested in booking a telehealth appointment, contact your local health service or general practice. For more information you can contact Telehealth Helpline on 6325 0860.

As part of the National Health Plan, information and resources about telehealth have been provided to help you and your family receive the right health care.

COVID-19 Testing Information

Several COVID-19 testing facilities in Western Sydney have been established to test patients who are suspected of or have symptoms relating to COVID-19. You should visit a clinic or collection centre if you have a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath and meet the current NSW Health testing criteria.

The test is FREE and generally takes less than 10 minutes. Results should be available between 24 to 72 hours after testing. During this time, you are required to self-isolate until you receive your test results.

Find out more about these facilities, including if a GP referral is required, how and when to make an appointment, locations and operating hours on our COVID-19 Testing Locations in Western Sydney webpage.

Where to Find Support

During this time we encourage you to reach out to the supports available to you.

A comprehensive list of mental health support and resources created by NSW Health is available online. 

Beyond Blue have developed a number of resources and supports to assist people throughout this challenging time, including:

The National Mental Health Commission’s #InThisTogether campaign has launched to support all Australian’s mental health and wellbeing during these times.

Support if you live in New South Wales and can’t earn an income because you must self-isolate or quarantine, or are caring for someone with COVID-19 is available on the Services Australia website.

Mental health support Helplines

Ensuring young people in Western Sydney receive the right help and information is important. A number of youth services have been provided to help you or someone you know can access the right care and support during this time.

Youth Health in Western Sydney Local Health District is providing flu vaccinations and COVID-19 testing for homeless young people who show symptoms of COVID-19. This service is extended to young people living in the same refuge or accommodation service, even if they do not show symptoms.

For more information and to book an appointment contact High Street Youth Health Service on 8860 2500 or Western Area Adolescent team in Mount Druitt on 9881 1230.

Create Foundation is a national consumer body representing children and young people with an out of home care experience, has developed resources and videos around COVID-19 to help children and young people receive important information on what they need to know about COVID-19. Create Foundation have also interviewed young people on their experiences during the pandemic.

Visit Create Foundation website or contact their number on 1800 655 105.

The NSW government and food bank and the Rapid Relief Team are working together to deliver emergency relief packages and food boxes to people in need.

Food Bank Emergency Relief packages

Emergency relief packages are available for people who have been directed by NSW Health to self-isolate, and who:

  • Can’t or are genuinely struggling to afford food and groceries
  • Have no family or friends able to help them with shopping
  • Have no access to delivery services.

The packages contain two weeks of food and personal care items, such as:

  • pasta
  • long life milk
  • canned vegetables
  • toilet paper

Rapid Relief Team (RRT) food box

The Rapid Relief Team food boxes are available for people who are in self-quarantine due to their vulnerability and who:

  • Have lost income or their job, or are on a low income such as a pensioner
  • Have little or no support from friends or relatives
  • Are struggling with meeting their cost of living bills
  • Are unable to access delivery services

If you or someone you know is in need, please contact Services NSW on 13 77 88.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change lives in many different ways, to support the community Your Room (A joint initiative by NSW Health and St Vincent’s Alcohol and Drug Information Service) have developed a range of alcohol and other drug specific resources to help you with accessing services and support you with any stress and anxiety you may be experiencing. 

Key Sources

In the past few months, we have experienced national hardships and with COVID-19 evolving, we understand that this time can be overwhelming and difficult for you and your family. Official Government website’s have created information that will inform you on how to keep healthy during this time. To keep up-to-date with the latest information, click on the following links below:

Information on this page is correct as of 12:00pm AEST Friday 20 November 2020.