COVID-19 update – 2 March 2022

 

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COVID-19 cases in the region

Over the last four weeks there were 34,987 cases of COVID in the region. Please note that the actual number of cases is likely to be much more. For further information please go to

Latest NSW COVID statistics. 

Should we still wear masks? Yes!

With the reduction in the number of COVID cases we are getting asked “Do we still have to wear masks’? 

The pandemic is far from over. A reminder:

  • Death and hospitalisation rates for COVID are still high – this is not a cold.
  • This is an epidemic virus and will cause waves of outbreaks throughout the year.

It’s great that COVID numbers are falling, but the virus is finding the unvaccinated, under vaccinated and those whose response is not great, and transmission is occurring.

Healthcare practices are considered to be at high risk of transmission of COVID-19. In addition, they are considered different to general workplace settings due to the potential susceptibility of patients, the duty of care related to providing health services and the recommended use of controls in place including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

When a person with COVID-19 attends a practice during their infectious period as a staff member, patient or carer, a risk assessment should be undertaken. Exposures can occur during individual clinical consultations, in group scenarios and whilst in non-clinical settings such as a waiting room.

When considering all these factors general practices and their staff should continue to wear masks within the workplace. It also would be recommended to ensure your patients and anyone visiting your practice wear a mask whilst in the practice.

See here - Healthcare Worker COVID-19 Exposure Risk Assessment Matrix - to assess the level of risk for exposed staff members (clinical and non-clinical) and client/patients and carers exposed in a clinical setting.

Antiviral treatments for COVID-19

NPS MedicineWise has launched an information hub  on the recently approved anti-virals and monoclonal antibody medicines that can be used to treat COVID-19. The hub will provide new clinical information, resources, webinars and links to help keep health professionals and consumers up to date with the latest approvals, evidence and guidance.

The hub currently features:

  • FAQs about the use of COVID-19 oral antiviral medicines in residential aged care
  • A medicine table summarising key information about the two oral antivirals (molnupiravir and nirmatrelvir), and also the intravenous medicine sotrovimab.
  • Australian Prescriber drug summaries on remdesivir and sotrovimab. Drug summaries on molnupiravir, nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir, and casirivimab plus imdevimab will be added next week.

Boosters

ATAGI have updated their recommendations on the use of booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Nuvaxovid (Novavax) can be used as a booster in an individual aged 18 years and above if no other COVID-19 vaccine is considered suitable for that individual.
  • AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a booster dose is now only recommended when there are medical contraindications to the mRNA vaccines. AstraZeneca is no longer recommended for use as the booster dose for people who received a primary vaccination course of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, although it can still be used for this purpose if these individuals decline receiving an mRNA vaccine as a booster dose.
  • Pfizer or Moderna is preferred for the booster dose in those aged 18 years and above. For those aged 16 – 17 years, only Pfizer vaccine should be used. These brands can be used for the booster dose regardless of which vaccine brand was used for the primary course.

ATAGI advises that all individuals aged 16 years and over are recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to maintain an “up-to-date” status. This booster dose is now recommended from 3 months after the last primary dose.

MBS item update

From 18 January 2022, MBS Item (93715) to support management of patients with confirmed COVID-19 has included patients diagnosed using a COVID-19 rapid antigen self-test. Item 93715 cannot be provided in conjunction with telehealth services and is only for face-to-face care.

Doctors should be aware that for patients that have received a positive result via a COVID-19 rapid antigen self-test, the medical practitioner is required to either assist in or confirm the reporting of the positive test result through the relevant state or territory reporting system. The medical practitioner is required to make a record in the patient’s notes confirming that the result has been reported. Click here for further information.

Upcoming webinars

Healthed webcast: COVID-ATAGI latest

Join Healthed for this webcast where Associate Professor Nigel Crawford will explain recent ATAGI decisions and advice on developments crucial to your practice. They will have a close look at the NOVAVAX and answer your frequently asked questions about it.

When: Tuesday, 1 March 7.00 pm – 9.00 pm (AEDT)
Where: Online
Target audience: Healthcare professionals

Register: Click here to register.

COVID-19 live stream update for GPs

Join the latest COVID-19 vaccine live stream update for GPs. The panel will provide latest key updates and answer participants’ questions live about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

When: Thursday 3 March 2022, 11.30 am (AEDT)

Where: Online

Target audience: GPs

Register: Click link to join.

COVID-19 care in the community

A reminder to check HealthPathways regularly for the latest updates on caring for COVID positive patients in the community. These have been updated to include information on the new oral antiviral treatments.

CESPHN Vax at Home Service

Some people in our community may not be able to access a GP or vaccination hub to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. 

The CESPHN Vax at Home Service is ONLY for those people who are housebound and not able to leave their house to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or booster (their carers will also be able to be vaccinated). 

The Vax at Home Service will accept referrals for people 16 years and over. For children 12-16 years with special circumstances and may require further support, referrals will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Patient self-referrals will NOT be accepted. Patients should speak with their GP for a referral to this program if appropriate. Referrals will be accepted from general practitioners and from Local Health Districts.

Referrals MUST be sent through this Vax at Home Service Online Form – for people who are housebound and reside in the Sydney Local Health District or South Eastern Sydney Local Health District regions.

For further information on the program, please email vaxathomeservice@cesphn.com.au.

Additional PPE and pulse oximeters available

To order PPE for your practice or pharmacy click here. Distribution of pulse oximeters to patients identified as high risk is occurring via local health districts. CESPHN has access to a small supply of pulse oximeters.

GPs with patients they believe require a pulse oximeter urgently are asked to email pulseoximeter@cesphn.com.au with their name and address and the PHN will arrange delivery of an oximeter. Practices actively seeing moderate risk COVID positive patients can also be sent up to five pulse oximeters.

Please note: new ordering and delivery process

CESPHN has supplied PPE to general practices, community pharmacies and allied health via the Commonwealth’s National Medical Stockpile over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. However such supply was in response to normal PPE supply lines being disrupted by the pandemic.

The Commonwealth is commencing a more streamlined approach to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and pulse oximeter ordering, distribution and delivery. 

The new process will commence in the next 4 weeks: 

  • PPE deliveries will be delivered directly from the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) to general practitioners and immunising pharmacists  (rather than via PHN)
  • Orders will still occur via CESPHN through an updated online request form
  • The Living with COVID PPE Bundle is intended to supply each practitioner with a 1 month supply of PPE (equivalent to 40 patient visits). If practitioners have a higher case load (i.e., over 40 patients), bundles can be ordered more frequently.

Eligibility criteria:

  • PPE Bundle: GPs, ACCHSs and GPRCs willing to manage COVID positive patients face-to-face, until 30 June 2022
  • Access to P2/N95 masks and eye protection: GPs and GPRCs willing to support COVID positive people virtually, and respiratory patients face-to-face until 31 March 2022 .

There will be a transition phase over the next 4 weeks while CESPHN manages and monitors current stock levels. The current request for PPE form on the CESPHN website will be updated to reflect the new process.

There will be some further requirements needed for ordering through this new process - please note so you can prepare:

  • Provider numbers for GPs ordering will be required
  • Sizes will be required for masks and gloves ordered for each practitioner
  • You must agree that the details provided in the order form are true and accurate, and all eligible requirements have been met
  • Ensure that consent has been obtained from each eligible practitioner for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information to the PHN, Logistics and Distribution Partners, and to Australian Department of Health for ordering, auditing and delivery purposes.

See here further information - COVID-19 - Completing new PPE and pulse oximeter order form - GP, ACCHS and GPRCs.

 

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