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Information for general practitioners

Queensland Primary Health Networks (PHN’s), Queensland Health, local hospital and health services, the Australian Government Department of Health, Healthdirect Australia, Health Consumers Queensland and peak agencies (e.g. RACGP) continue to be involved in planning to effectively manage patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 in the community, in a rapidly evolving environment.

The role of general practices under the national and Queensland model of care is focused on the management and care of medium risk patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

Suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases

People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, which operates 24 hours a day.

The helpline now provides health advice for people who are COVID-19 positive and need support managing symptoms at home, or with knowing when they should seek medical assistance.

Helpline staff will use the recently updated COVID-19 symptom checker to assess caller symptoms and provide advice on whether the caller needs to get to hospital, should contact their GP or can manage at home, based on the severity of their symptoms. As per the current service, callers requiring clinical support can speak with a clinical professional.

Residents can also visit healthdirect.gov.au for online information and use the COVID-19 symptom checker to self-assess their symptoms and receive clinical advice.

People will be triaged as :

  • Low risk – can be self-managed at home
  • Moderate risk – can be managed by GPs in their homes
  • High risk – to be managed by the HHS either through the virtual ward or in hospital
  • Critical – call 000 for emergency care

View the risk stratification framework:  Home – National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce (covid19evidence.net.au)

For escalation of people to the HHS, refer to local health pathways.

GPs managing moderate risk cases

The Omicron COVID-19 variant has resulted in high case numbers across Queensland. As a result of the pressure this has put on the health system, acute care services are focusing their capacity on care for people with COVID-19 that are moderate to high risk. In this environment general practices are being asked to focus on care for people with moderate risk.

Advice about care for moderate risk patients in available through guidelines developed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and local health pathways, which are the trusted and most current source of clinical information.

People triaged as moderate risk through the National Coronavirus Helpline and COVID-19 symptom checker are advised to seek care from their general practitioner. The vast majority of care will be delivered by telehealth.

Advice about care for moderate risk people is available through guidelines developed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and local health pathways.

General practices are encouraged to plan for an increase in demand for same day telehealth appointments for COVID-19 positive people.

Strategies to increase same-day telehealth availability may include:

  • Reserving more appointments for same day urgent appointments or telehealth
  • Designating identified GPs exclusively for same day telehealth COVID care
  • Cancelling or re-scheduling non-urgent care

General practitioners should refer to HealthPathways (see below) for up- to-date information on the clinical management of these people, including escalation pathways if people deteriorate and referral to disease modifying treatments such as monoclonal antibodies.

HealthPathways

The Queensland-wide COVID-19 Case Management Health Pathway is available for clinicians to provide clinical guidance on the assessment, triage and management of COVID-19 positive people in the community. 

  • Queensland HealthPathways sites provide up-to-date COVID-19 guidance for health providers managing suspected and positive COVID-19 people.
  • COVID-19 Case Management. This pathway is for the management of people with confirmed COVID-19 (by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid antigen test (RAT) or people highly suspected to have COVID-19 and awaiting testing.
  • Suspected COVID-19. This pathway is for people presenting with symptoms of COVID-19-compatible illness and includes management up until test results have been received.
  • COVID-19 Requests. This page is about requesting COVID-19-related services and equipment in your region.
  • COVID-19 in Residential Aged Care Facilities. This pathway is for general practitioners assessing and managing a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in a residential aged care facility (RACF).
  • COVID-19 Practice Management. This Queensland-wide page is about preparing a general practice to respond to COVID-19, including strategies to manage an influx of affected people. It has been written to allow information sharing across Queensland and to coordinate regular and frequent updates.

Local HealthPathways

Local HealthPathways specific to each region and health district in Queensland provide the latest information about COVID care management and are regularly are being updated. Practitioners are encouraged to check they have access to HealthPathways. If you do not have access to HealthPathways, please contact your local PHN for login details.

The COVID-19 In The Community Preparation Checklist is also a useful supporting document.

Information for your practice to communicate

The following key messages may be useful for general practices to include in consumer messaging on your practice website and phone message:

  • Helpful information is available for people with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms is available through the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 or healthdirect.gov.au website.
  • The vast majority of people will have mild symptoms and are encouraged to manage their own care at home using the information available on this website or with support through the National Coronavirus helpline.
  • If you have been advised to access urgent emergency department care or ambulance care, please hang up now and call 000 or present to the hospital emergency department.
  • If you have been advised through the National Coronavirus Helpline or healthdirect website to seek care from your GP, please book a telehealth appointment [insert relevant instructions] or stay on the line and we will schedule you an appointment.
  • GP services for people with COVID-19 or COVID symptoms are also available through general practice respiratory clinics and appointments can be scheduled through Hot Doc.
Is your practice COVID-19 prepared?

Download the checklist for practices to assist with COVID-19 preparedness.

COVID-19 in the community: Preparation Checklist

MBS and telehealth

MBS

MBS COVID-19 Management Support Service

Telehealth

  • The Department of Health has extended the healthdirect Video Call COVID- 19 GP Program to 30 June 2022. 
  • We encourage you to continue using this secure video consulting platform which has been purpose-built for primary care settings. 
  • For GPs in private practice wanting to start using the service, please register your practice. For GPs in ACCHOs wanting to start using the service, please register for access.

Find out the most recent information here.

Face-to-face

Until 30 June 2022, temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item has been made available to support medical practitioners providing clinically relevant treatment to COVID-19 positive people.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The Australian Government Department of Health has released guidance on access to PPE bundles and pulse oximeters for practices willing to treat low-risk COVID-19 positive people face-to-face.

This Distribution of PPE through PHNs communications statement outlines the PPE available, eligibility criteria and associated obligations of GPs, ACCHSs and GPRCs wishing to access the National Medical Stockpile (NMS).

Visit NQPHN's PPE webpage for further details about how you can access PPE.

Primary health workforce isolation, quarantine and work attendance

Critical essential workers update, 9 January, 2022.

A close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 who performs a critically essential role, can leave quarantine to go to their workplace provided employers and workers meet the requirements for critically essential workers.

Find out more.

Events and webinars

Register for upcoming events and webinars for the latest information on the COVID-19 response.

Upcoming

  • A statewide webinar with the latest COVID information is being planned for the week of 24 January 2022. GPs will be provided with details from their local PHN once finalised.

Previous recordings

Other resources

Find links to the latest information and guidelines for clinicians on living with COVID-19 in the community, here:

Acknowledgement

We would like to acknowledge all Queensland PHNs who worked collaboratively to produce this web page.

21 January 2022