The last year has been tremendously challenging for primary care providers. COVID has once again demonstrated the ability of primary care to respond and reaffirmed its critical role in delivering local health care solutions. From us at the Central and Eastern Sydney PHN we salute your efforts – we have been proud to be part of your care team and look forward to supporting you in 2022.
COVID-19 cases in the region
The number of COVID cases in our region is expected to increase significantly over the next month and this will create added pressure on general practice who will be asked to manage low to medium risk covid positive patients.
Over the past two weeks to 19 December 2021 there have been 4466 locally acquired cases in the CESPHN region, a 192% per cent increase over the previous period. The largest concentrations are in the LGAs of Sydney (1061), Randwick (602), Canterbury-Bankstown (569), Inner West (479), Sutherland (366), Waverley (361), and Bayside (359).
See here for information on the latest testing locations. Please refer your patients to a GP respiratory clinic if they need a respiratory assessment. You can find contact details here.
In our region 86% of residents are fully vaccinated. However, with the rapid increase in COVID cases it is critical that booster shots or third dose be provided especially to those who are vulnerable and have reduced immunity to COVID.
If you are having trouble accessing vaccine booster supplies, then contact our practice support team via email@example.com and we will support your efforts to obtain additional vaccine supplies.
General practices and pharmacists are encouraged to review their patients and identify those who are unvaccinated or need a booster dose and arrange COVID-19 vaccination for them.
A COVID-19 booster vaccination is now recommended for anyone aged 18 and older who completed their primary course 5 or more months ago. Spikevax (Moderna) can be used as a booster vaccine. To ensure timely provision of boosters, ATAGI recommends that those who become eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose before or during the December and New Year holiday period (i.e. up to 3 January 2022) can receive them earlier than 5 months.
COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 5-11
From 10 January 2022, Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program will be extended to all children aged 5 to 11. Children will be able to receive vaccinations through GPs, state-run clinics, pharmacies, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Commonwealth Vaccination Centres. For the first delivery of the Paediatric Pfizer vaccine:
If your practice has already signed the Pfizer Site Readiness Declaration, you can login to the COVID-19 Vaccine Administrative System (CVAS) from Saturday 11 December 2021 and place your first order for Pfizer vaccine for 5 to 11 year olds.
If you have not previously signed the Pfizer Site Readiness Declaration, you will be prompted to complete it the next time you login to CVAS and, once signed, you can place your first order.
To receive your first delivery in the week ending 14 January 2022, please place your order between Saturday 18 December and midnight Friday 24 December 2021. Please note this delivery window differs from the Christmas ordering arrangements.
If you are having difficulty placing an order, please contact the Vaccine Operations Centre (VOC) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new module regarding Pfizer for age 5-12 years is now available in the COVID-19 vaccination training program on Monday 20 December. New information regarding booster doses will be identified by ‘NEW’ in orange and white.
Mandatory vaccination requirements extended
Mandatory vaccination requirements will be extended to all primary care and other private sector health service providers across NSW, with these workers required to have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by 31 January 2022.
This includes health practitioners working in private and community settings, such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists, speech pathologists, dieticians and naturopaths. It also includes support staff working in these practices. Click here to read more.
COVID-19 care in the community
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has shared a letter to GPs about COVID-19 care in the community. Click here to view the letter in full. NSW Health will still screen all COVID-19 cases for certain risk factors and escalate those with known higher risk for increased support. Certain other risk factors such as pregnancy and obesity, may not be identified through the routine screening process. Cases that meet the criteria for low-risk will be advised to undertake self-care at home in the first instance.
It is highly likely that your usual patients will call for advice regarding COVID-19 symptoms and issues relating to non COVID-19 matters during their acute phase of illness. General practitioners are asked to continue to provide the usual care and support of their patients for non-COVID-19 matters via telehealth. For any COVID-19 matters, please refer to the RACGP COVID-19 Management in the Community guidelines and your local HealthPathway guidelines.
From Friday, 17 December confirmed COVID-19 cases who meet certain criteria will be provided information to safely manage their infection at home. The criteria for classifying a case as low-risk are:
under 50 years of age
have had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine
do not suffer from any chronic medical conditions
Chronic medical conditions include:
obesity (BMI >30 kg/m2)
severe, chronic or complex medical conditions (including cardiac, respiratory, renal or neurodevelopmental conditions)
Patients who meet the low-risk criteria on screening will be provided a contact number to seek further medical assistance. Any patient who has a chronic medical condition, or who is pregnant (which may not be identified through the screening process), should be escalated for additional support.
Patients will be advised to call their GP or the NSW Health Support Line on 1800 960 933 if they have any mild symptoms or questions, and to call Triple Zero (000) if it is a medical emergency.
If a GP would like to escalate a patient for additional support they can call the NSW Health COVID-19 Care at Home Support Line on 1800 960 933.
Patients will receive an automated medical clearance notice from NSW Health allowing them to cease isolation 10 days after their positive test date.
Managing COVID positive patients at home via telehealth
Management of COVID positive patients in the community is fully outlined in our local HealthPathways websites.
Central and Eastern Sydney PHN is inviting general practices to apply for funding of up to $1,200 to participate in a program to improve COVID-19 vaccination uptake among our region’s unvaccinated population. Around 13 per cent of CESPHN’s population remain unvaccinated, as at 20 December 2021.
The program will involve identifying and following up patients of the practice who have not yet received two primary doses of COVID-19 vaccine, using the COVID-19 Status Report (AIR042A) available on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). The program activities must be completed within 6 weeks. Applications close Friday, 24 December 2021.
Vax at Home Program – closed over Christmas and New Year period
The Vax at Home Program which supports housebound patients to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, will be closed for referrals over the Christmas and New Year period. If you have housebound patients who require a vaccine of either first, second, third or booster doses, please refer them to their general practitioner.
If you send a referral to the Vax at Home Program email address, you will be asked to redirect the referral to the patient’s general practitioner. If the general practitioner is not a COVID-19 Vaccine Provider, please refer to the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder to source a provider.
Additional PPE available
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) packages including surgical and N95/P2 masks, are available for community pharmacies and those GPs who continue to see their patients within their practices. PPE guidelines can be found here. CESPHN will continue to distribute these supplies. To order PPE for your practice or pharmacy click here.
Please note CESPHN has received a small number of pulse oximeters. Practices managing COVID positive patients who require a pulse oximeter are asked to contact CESPHN on email@example.com
PHN support over the holidays
Our PHN office will close from 24 December 2021 and will reopen 4 January 2022. However we remain committed to supporting practices during the holiday period. If you require urgent assistance, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org and put URGENT in the subject line. We will be checking this email box every 4 hours from 9am to 5pm and will action urgent requests for PPE and other matters as appropriate.
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