COVID-19 Primary Care alert from the Director of Public Health
This COVID-19 Primary Care alert updates the alert provided on 29 November 2022.
COVID-19 risk level change and updates to testing services
The description of the current Tasmanian COVID-19 risk level has been changed from moderate to low. This reflects the substantial reduction in COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions, deaths, and outbreaks since late December 2022. Currently, approximately 100 cases of COVID-19 are reported each day in Tasmania.
Key messages for General Practice
- Please review your Work Health and Safety Risk Assessment and your COVID-19 Safety Plan. Useful information is at: Create your COVID-19 Safety Plan (worksafe.tas.gov.au)
- Please ensure your clinic practices continue to reduce the risk of transmission of communicable diseases by screening patients and visitors for symptoms, planning physical distancing, using personal protective equipment, optimised ventilation, hand hygiene and other measures. The RACGP has developed a series of resources available at: https://www.racgp.org.au/clinical-resources/covid-19-resources/infection-control
- Plan appropriate and flexible ways to care for patients with respiratory symptoms, now the risk of COVID-19 has reduced. These may include telehealth, and face to face appointments using risk reduction strategies, including separation of patients with respiratory symptoms, and the measures described above.
- Ensure you continue to manage staff with symptoms, and those who are COVID-19 cases or close contacts. Remind staff of their roles and obligations.
- Masks should remain available for staff and patients who choose to wear one, or who are asked to wear one based on your workplace policy, or their symptoms or circumstances.
- Review and prepare management plans for patients at risk of severe illness to ensure rapid access to testing and anti-viral treatments.
- Continue to promote COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible staff and patients.
Changes to COVID-19 testing arrangements
With upcoming changes to state-run testing clinics, maintaining the longstanding role of General Practice in managing acute respiratory illness is vital.
- From 31 January 2023, state-operated testing clinics will close.
- GPs will be the main initiators of PCR testing, either by collecting specimens in their clinic, referring patients to the nearest pathology service or through the option of self-collection.
- GPs should state on the request form if the test is for COVID-19 only, or a full respiratory virus panel (RVP). Testing algorithms vary by laboratory – some laboratories will routinely test COVID-19 specimens for Influenza A, Influenza B and RSV – other labs may also test for adenovirus, rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus and human metapneumovirus.
- People unable to access a GP referral for testing can discuss testing options through [email protected] 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 973 363.
- The East Coast (St Helens) and Launceston General Practice Respiratory Clinics, which are funded by the Commonwealth, will offer PCR testing until 28 February 2023.
- Access to free rapid antigen tests (RATs) for concession card holders from Service Tasmania centres has been extended until the end of April 2023. Commonwealth concession card holders can obtain 10 RATs over a 3-month period, and a maximum of 5 per month.
- The Service Tasmania RAT concessional access program has also been extended to include Tasmanian Seniors Card holders from Monday 23 January 2023.
- The RAT home delivery program will continue until the end of April 2023 for people living in some rural and regional areas, and for people living with disability who are unable to leave their home. Australia Post will continue to make these deliveries on behalf of the Tasmanian Government.
- Department of Health has provided RAT to schools state-wide, for distribution to students as the school year starts.
- RATs also remain readily available for purchase at supermarkets and pharmacies across Tasmania.
For more information visit: https://www.health.tas.gov.au/health-topics/coronavirus-covid-19
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Dr Mark Veitch
Director of Public Health