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NEW Information Alert - 30 March 2020

For GPs and general practice

  • Whole of population telehealth now available
  • CDNA Guidelines updated to include advice for 'suspect cases'
  • Guidance for GPs performing eye examinations
  • Guidance for pregnant women - changes to criteria for oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in pregnancy
  • Limited supply of additional surgical and N95 masks now available

Read full alert for GPs and general practice

Whole of population telehealth now available

On 29 March 2020, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, announced: Whole of population telehealth for patients, general practice, primary care and other medical services to support the response to COVID-19. Find the full item descriptor(s) and information on other changes to the MBS on the MBS online summary webpage.

> All Medicare eligible Australians can now access services via telehealth where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.

> The new temporary MBS telehealth items must be bulk billed and are for non-admitted patients.

> The bulk billing incentive Medicare fees will double for items relating to general practice, diagnostic imaging and pathology services.

> Medicare rebates paid for the new GP and medical practitioner telehealth services are at the same level as the rebates paid for the equivalent face-to-face services.

> General Practice telehealth/telephone item numbers now available for :

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments
  • Chronic disease management plans and reviews
  • Mental health including mental health care plans and reviews
  • Eating disorder management
  • Pregnancy support
  • Autism management
  • Urgent after hours unsociable

> For more information and a list of the new MBS items, please read the COVID-19 Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services - GPs and Other Medical Practitioners factsheet and other relevant factsheets here.

> Find the full item descriptor(s) and information on other changes to the MBS on the MBS online summary webpage.

> Please email COVIDResponse@health.gov.au if you have a query relating to the COVID-19 telehealth MBS items.

CDNA Guidelines updated to include advice for 'suspect cases'

The CDNA COVID-19 Guideline was updated on 26 March 2020 to include advice for ‘probable cases’ throughout the document. View the CDNA Guidelines here.

Guidance for GPs performing eye examinations

A position statement providing practical guidance to clinicians when performing eye examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic has been released by RANZCO. Endorsed by the RACGP, the statement offers general and specific advice, including:

  • avoid routine tonometry, and do NOT use puff tonometry
  • avoid direct ophthalmoscopy if possible

If close-up examination is required, wear a face mask.

Guidance for pregnant women

The Statewide Maternity and Neonatal Network in conjunction with Queensland Clinical Guidelines released the following:

> COVID-19 Clinical guideline: Perinatal care with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in pregnant women - please note changes to criteria for oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in pregnancy on page 12
> Parent information: COVID-19 in pregnancy
> Parent information: COVID-19 and breastfeeding
> COVID-19 Guideline supplement: Perinatal care with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in pregnant women
> COVID-19 Operational framework for maternity and neonatal services

Please visit the Clinical Guidelines website for more information.

Additional surgical and N95 masks now available

The Australian Government Department of Health is making additional surgical and N95 masks available to general practice/ACCHS and pharmacy in response to COVID-19. Masks will be distributed in accordance with the Distribution of PPE through PHNs: Tranche 2 guidance.

Surgical Masks
Before requesting surgical masks please consider:

> Is there a local supply available commercially?
> Does your practice have a population which is more likely to have been exposed to the novel coronavirus?
> Does your practice have an unusual number of patients presenting with respiratory symptoms?

N95 Masks
These masks are for use by GPs who are specifically willing and able to undertake specimen collection in their practice as per the Department of Health advice.

> the physical layout of your practice and whether it is suitable for isolation of patients presenting as a suspect case (including any post testing requirements);
> whether you have access to all the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), not just masks; and
> your confidence in infection control procedures across your whole practice.

Please note there are several pathology collection centres across the Darling Downs and West Moreton region who can collect specimens for testing.

If you have an identified need for surgical or N95 masks at your practice, please contact our Primary Care Liaison team via email practicesupport@ddwmphn.com.au Please include the quantity of masks that you would like to receive for consideration.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • We are currently processing all of the requests in accordance with the Department of Health guidelines.
  • Once processed, we will be distributing masks via courier only.
  • Due to the heavy demand on the courier services, can we please ask that you order your masks before you are completely out of stock.
  • Courier delivery can take between 1-3 days for local delivery from Springfield (possibly longer for rural areas) due to the current environment.

For PHN-funded service providers

  • Whole of population telehealth now available

Read full alert for PHN-funded service providers

On 29 March 2020, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, announced: Whole of population telehealth for patients, general practice, primary care and other medical services to support the response to COVID-19.

What are the changes?
As part of the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19, twenty-four (24) new items have been introduced to ensure continued access to essential health services for all Australians. As of 30 March 2020 these items have become general in nature and have no relation to diagnosing, treating or suspecting COVID-19.

Mental Health
Group A40, sub-group 3 and Group M18, sub-groups 1-4:

  • 4 new psychological therapy items for clinical psychologist services; and
  • 20 new Focused Psychological Strategies items for services provided by a psychologist, GP, non-specialist medical practitioner, occupational therapist or social worker.

A list of the new telehealth items is provided later in the COVID-19 Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services - Mental Health Services factsheet.

Please see COVID-19 Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services - Specialists, consultant physicians and psychiatrists factsheet for additional available psychiatric telehealth and telephone services.

The COVID-19 Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services - Allied Health Services factsheet is also available which contains information on additional psychology telehealth and telephone services.

Allied Health
Group M18, sub-groups 11-22:

  • 4 new allied health items for patient’s of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent;
  • 2 new allied health items for pregnancy support counselling;
  • new allied health items for early intervention services for children with autism, pervasive developmental disorder or disability; and
  • 18 new allied health eating disorders services.

A list of the new telehealth items is provided later in this fact sheet COVID-19 Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services - Allied Health Services factsheet.

What does this mean for providers?
The new temporary MBS telehealth items will allow providers to continue to deliver essential health care services to patients within their care. Providers do not need to be in their regular practice to provide telehealth services. Providers should use their provider number for their primary location, and must provide safe services in accordance with normal professional standards.

The new temporary telehealth MBS items will substitute current face-to-face consultations that are available under the MBS. The new temporary MBS telehealth items will have similar requirements to normal timed consultation items. The new temporary telehealth items must be bulk billed, meaning MBS rebates are paid to the provider.

View all fact sheets regarding the latest changes to MBS here.

Find the full item descriptor(s) and information on other changes to the MBS on the MBS online summary webpage.

Please email COVIDResponse@health.gov.au if you have a query relating to the COVID-19 telehealth MBS items.

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Telehealth MBS Item Numbers

Whole of population telehealth now available

On 29 March 2020, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, announced: Whole of population telehealth for patients, general practice, primary care and other medical services to support the response to COVID-19. Find the full item descriptor(s) and information on other changes to the MBS on the MBS online summary webpage.

MBS Item Numbers as of 30 March 2020

> All Medicare eligible Australians can now access services via telehealth where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.

> The new temporary MBS telehealth items must be bulk billed and are for non-admitted patients.

> The bulk billing incentive Medicare fees will double for items relating to general practice, diagnostic imaging and pathology services.

> Medicare rebates paid for the new GP and medical practitioner telehealth services are at the same level as the rebates paid for the equivalent face-to-face services.

> General Practice telehealth/telephone item numbers now available for :

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessments
  • Chronic disease management plans and reviews
  • Mental health including mental health care plans and reviews
  • Eating disorder management
  • Pregnancy support
  • Autism management
  • Urgent after hours unsociable

> For more information and a list of the new MBS items, please read the COVID-19 Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services - GPs and Other Medical Practitioners factsheet and other relevant factsheets here.

> Find the full item descriptor(s) and information on other changes to the MBS on the MBS online summary webpage.

> Please email COVIDResponse@health.gov.au if you have a query relating to the COVID-19 telehealth MBS items.

healthdirect Australia Video Call

Our PHN offers free access to the healthdirect Australia Video Call platform for GPs and health care providers to use in our region. The platform allows you to deliver care to your patients via video consultation. Benefits of the Video Call platform include:

  • it's easy to use for consumers, web-based, requires no software download, uses low bandwidth and meets Medicare security requirements; and
  • the PHN can set your practice up with login details and offer training.

View a recent webinar about the capability of the healthdirect Australia Video Call platform.

Contact practicesupport@ddwmphn.com.au to learn more and get connected.

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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including masks

In response to the 2019 COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Health has now supplied Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN with an allocation of N95 masks and surgical masks.

N95 masks for specimen collection

These masks are for use by GPs who are specifically willing and able to undertake specimen collection in their practice as per the Department of Health advice.

  • the physical layout of your practice and whether it is suitable for isolation of patients presenting as a suspect case (including any post testing requirements);
  • whether you have access to all the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), not just masks; and
  • your confidence in infection control procedures across your whole practice.

Please note there are several pathology collection centres across the Darling Downs and West Moreton region who can collect specimens for testing.

Surgical masks are available

The Department of Health has made available a limited supply of surgical masks for general practice staff and people who may have had contact with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). For general practices located in the Darling Downs and West Moreton region, these masks will be distributed via our PHN.

Before requesting masks please consider:

  • Is there a local supply available commercially?
  • Does your practice have a population which is more likely to have been exposed to the novel coronavirus?
  • Does your practice have an unusual number of patients presenting with respiratory symptoms?

If you have an identified need for surgical masks at your practice, please contact our Primary Care Liaison team via email practicesupport@ddwmphn.com.au

Please include the quantity of masks that you would like to receive for consideration. We will only be releasing up to 100 masks per practice at this time due to limited supply.

Important Delivery Information

Please note:

  • We are currently processing all of the requests in accordance with the Department of Health guidelines.
  • Once processed, we will be distributing masks via courier only.
  • Due to the heavy demand on the courier services, can we please ask that you order your masks before you are completely out of stock.
  • Courier delivery can take between 1-3 days for local delivery from Springfield (possibly longer for rural areas) due to the current environment.
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Fever clinics now open

Baillie Henderson Hospital - Toowoomba

LOCATION:
Baillie Henderson Hospital Carpark, Mort St Entrance

OPEN TIMES:
10:00am - 6:00pm - 7 days a week
NO APPOINTMENT IS REQUIRED. This is a drive up clinic. Patients will be seen in order of arrival.

TARGET GROUP:
Only patients with mild to moderate symptoms who meet the current criteria outlined in the Queensland Health Public Health Alert dated 14 March 2020. Please note: If your practice has capacity and the equipment/personal protective equipment (PPE) to assess and test patients who meet the criteria at your practice or via telehealth and referral to a private laboratory, please continue to do so.

PROCEDURE:
Patients can access the fever clinic through the Mort St entrance at Baillie Henderson Hospital. A sign will advise patients to STOP and phone the clinic. Patients can beep their car horn if they don't have access to a mobile phone. Patients will be triaged over the phone. Testing and/or clinical assessment will then occur via a doctor if needed. QAS will be called if any patients present severely unwell with breathing difficulty. The clinic is not equipped to manage severely ill patients.

MANAGING SEVERELY ILL PATIENTS:
If you or your staff assess a patient either in person or through telehealth to be severely unwell with breathing difficulties, call QAS for the patient as required.

Call the Toowoomba Base Hospital Emergency Department to let them know you have a severely unwell patient with breathing difficulty and suspected COVID-19. Due to the volume of calls being received, ensure you:

  • state your name and role;
  • state that you have a severely unwell patient with breathing difficulty and suspected COVID 19;
  • state patient observations or other symptoms/signs of severe concern. The consultant can then advise you on how to proceed.

Ipswich Hospital Fever Clinic - Ipswich

Please tell patients to call the relevant hotline before presenting to the clinic in person.

Our hotlines are staffed by registered nurses who can answer questions about symptoms and testing criteria.

LOCATION:
Jubilee Building, downhill from Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department entrance

OPEN TIMES:
Hotline: 07 3413 7199 (8:00am to 8:00pm)
Open: 11:00am to 5:00pm, seven days a week – phone ahead on hotline

TARGET GROUP:
Only patients with mild to moderate symptoms who meet the current criteria outlined in the latest Queensland Health Public Health Alert will be tested. Please note: If your practice has the capacity, the equipment, the pathology referrals and the personal protective equipment (PPE) to assess and test patients who meet the criteria, please continue to do so either at your practice or via telehealth.

PROCEDURE:
Patients or their GPs should phone ahead on one of the dedicated phone hotlines to discuss symptoms and testing criteria before the patient presents at the hospital. If testing is recommended, the hotline nurse will provide instructions.

OUT OF HOURS:
Outside the clinics’ hours of operation, patients who meet the testing criteria should present to their closest emergency department for testing.

IN AN EMERGENCY:
If your patient is very unwell and has breathing difficulties, call Triple Zero (000) and advise the Queensland Ambulance Service that the patient they are transporting to Ipswich Hospital may have COVID-19.

Next, call the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department triage nurse on 07 3810 1227 to let them know you have a severely unwell patient on the way to ED who may have COVID-19.

Ensure you state:

  • your name and role
  • patient observations and symptoms of concern.

The triage nurse will advise you on how to proceed.

Gatton Fever Clinic

Please tell patients to call the relevant hotline before presenting to the clinic in person.

Our hotlines are staffed by registered nurses who can answer questions about symptoms and testing criteria.

LOCATION:
Gatton Hospital, 97/103 William St, Gatton

OPEN TIMES:
Hotline: 07 5468 4113 (8:00am to 8:00pm)
Open: 8:00am to 4:00pm, seven days a week – phone ahead on hotline

TARGET GROUP:
Only patients with mild to moderate symptoms who meet the current criteria outlined in the latest Queensland Health Public Health Alert will be tested. Please note: If your practice has the capacity, the equipment, the pathology referrals and the personal protective equipment (PPE) to assess and test patients who meet the criteria, please continue to do so either at your practice or via telehealth.

PROCEDURE:
Patients or their GPs should phone ahead on one of the dedicated phone hotlines to discuss symptoms and testing criteria before the patient presents at the hospital. If testing is recommended, the hotline nurse will provide instructions.

OUT OF HOURS:
Outside the clinics’ hours of operation, patients who meet the testing criteria should present to their closest emergency department for testing.

IN AN EMERGENCY:
If your patient is very unwell and has breathing difficulties, call Triple Zero (000) and advise the Queensland Ambulance Service that the patient they are transporting to Ipswich Hospital may have COVID-19.

Next, call the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department triage nurse on 07 3810 1227 to let them know you have a severely unwell patient on the way to ED who may have COVID-19.

Ensure you state:

  • your name and role
  • patient observations and symptoms of concern.

The triage nurse will advise you on how to proceed.

Rural locations

For clinics/hospitals in rural locations, please refer to your relevant HealthPathways COVID-19 Assessment and Management page and view 'COVID-19 Referrals'.

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Contacting your Public Health Unit

Please discuss any cases of concern with your local Public Health Unit immediately so that appropriate actions and testing can be organised.

GPs are advised to notify their relevant Public Health Units of 'suspect cases' of COVID-19.

Darling Downs Health

Please use this DDH Public Health Unit Notification Form.

P: 07 4699 8240 (business hours) P: 07 3646 1699 (after hours)

West Moreton Health

Please use this WMH Public Health Unit Notification Form.

P: 07 3818 4700 (business hours) P: 07 3176 2111 (after hours, ask for public health)

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