2023 Winter Strategy and Plan
The 2023 Winter Plan supports Tasmania’s health system during winter to ensure it is prepared to manage acute respiratory illnesses (including COVID-19 and influenza) and provide high quality care to our community.
The 2023 Plan focuses on planning for, and prevention, detection, and early treatment of acute respiratory illnesses, to minimise health harms and health system strain.
The 2023 Winter Plan has been informed by consultation led by the Department of Health, including public and private representatives across the health sector.
The Plan is designed to be flexible in response to changes in Tasmania’s respiratory illness situation during the 2023 winter.
Our primary care sector will continue to be the key clinical providers to Tasmanians with COVID-19, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses during the 2023 winter.
The Department of Health will support the immunisation activities of primary care providers, provide information throughout winter, support response to outbreaks, and continue to provide a pathway for care of acute respiratory infections through the COVID@homeplus service.
The Department of Health will lead a robust response for the 2023 winter, including:
- maintaining hospital and health system preparedness and capacity
- promoting COVID-19 vaccination, including boosters, and influenza vaccination rates particularly for those most at risk from these infections
- supporting people to access appropriate testing and care for respiratory illnesses
- continuing to manage COVID-19 and influenza treatment stockpiles and availability
- using surveillance to understand patterns of disease and provide timely advice to the community and health service providers when disease risk levels change.
Vaccination is the principal means of reducing the harms of COVID-19 and influenza in the Tasmanian community.
A particular focus is to increase vaccination access and uptake in groups most at risk of severe outcomes.
Objectives of the 2023 influenza and COVID-19 vaccination campaign are to:
- maximise influenza vaccination coverage in people at risk of severe illness or outcomes, including those under the National Immunisation Program (NIP), plus general population
- support the primary care sector to achieve high influenza and COVID-19 vaccination coverage of residential aged and disability care residents and staff
- support current Department of Health workplace programs to achieve high influenza and COVID-19 vaccine uptake amongst staff
- maximise uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, in accordance with ATAGI guidance
- promote and enable the uptake of influenza and COVID-19 vaccination by eligible people in the wider population.
The primary health sector will continue to be the main provider of influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations.
From early April 2023 NIP-funded influenza vaccines will be available in Tasmania from General Practitioners (GPs) and most local pharmacies.
2023 COVID-19 booster vaccines are available at GPs and most local pharmacies.
Some local councils will operate influenza vaccine clinics for eligible people.
Accessing Appropriate Care
Tasmania’s primary care sector is the key provider of clinical care to Tasmanians with COVID-19, influenza and other acute respiratory illnesses. The 2023 Winter Plan aims to support the sector in this role this winter.
Commonwealth supported clinics
The Commonwealth has called for tenders to fund up to 150 existing primary care practices across Australia to provide reserve capacity to respond to future waves of COVID-19 or other significant respiratory infections. The outcome of this process will be released when available.
Primary Health Tasmania’s COVID-19 vaccination home visits and pop up clinics program
This program provides support for primary providers to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations for vulnerable Tasmanians in either their residence or in a pop-up clinic.
This will help ensure that vulnerable Tasmanians receive timely vaccinations in appropriate settings.
COVID@homeplus will continue to provide remote healthcare in the home for people at higher risk from with COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses who meet referral criteria. COVID@homeplus also assists with access to support for other health or social needs. The program has capacity of up to 5,000 COVID@homeplus device kits.
The service is available Statewide 24 hours per day, seven days per week, with GPs rostered between 9.00 am and 9.00 pm every day.
The COVID@homeplus surge capacity will be maintained, ready for increases in case numbers.
Hospital and Service capacity
A series of winter and peak demand strategies have been prepared across Tasmania’s public hospitals. These strategies cover:
- strengthened coordination
- using modelling and surveillance to plan service and resource deployment
- escalation planning
- adjustments to hours of operation to meet demand
- Statewide access and flow coordination
- short-term increases or adjustments to bed capacity
- brokered access to private hospital or residential aged care beds
- focus on protecting and managing our workforce
- COVID-19 management protocols
- stakeholder engagement and coordination
- outbreak management planning and resourcing.
Testing and treatment
Oral antiviral medications to treat COVID-19 and influenza are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). They require a prescription from a doctor and are supplied through community pharmacies.
If you may be eligible for antiviral treatment, please contact your GP soon, to plan access to testing and treatment if you test positive for COVID-19 or may have influenza.
If a person does not have timely access to a GP, COVID@homeplus can provide a referral for PCR testing, and antiviral prescription following diagnosis.
Where to get more information
- For advice and information about COVID-19 including vaccination, treatments, care options including access to COVID@homeplus, risk levels, and statistics, visit our COVID-19 section.
- For advice and information about influenza including vaccination, treatment options and information for health professionals, visit our flu section.
- Call the Public Health Hotline – Tasmania on 1800 671 738
- Call HealthDirect on 1800 022 222 or visit the HealthDirect website, 24 hours a day.