Coronavirus is an evolving international health concern. This page – for healthcare providers in North Queensland – will be updated with the latest information as it becomes available. 

This page was last updated at 5.02pm on Friday 29 May 2020.


Latest updates and advice


NQPHN COVID-19 update (29 May 2020)

Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) is taking steps to ensure General Practice staff are supported on a regular basis with the latest information to respond to impacts associated with COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Please read the latest NQPHN COVID-19 GP update (29 May 2020), which includes:

  • ‘Our Mob to Your Mob’ Indigenous health campaign  
  • Queensland Clinical Senate and Networks – update
  • Hotline established for COVID-19 Public Health Directions
  • Free secure telehealth service for GPs now available
  • New ADHA security training program in response to COVID-19
  • Cairns COPD Rapid Access Helpline
  • Department of Health-supplied surgical face masks for general practices, AMSs, pharmacies, and allied health providers
  • NQPHN daily COVID-19 updates – change
  • Updated COVID-19 epidemiology
  • Latest webinars
  • New COVID-19 resources for GPs

Subscribe to receive regular COVID-19 GP updates by clicking here.


Legislative amendment enabling digital images of prescriptions  (19 May 2020)

Queensland Government has confirmed an amendment has been made to the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (HDPR) to support the Commonwealth Government’s National Health (COVID-19 Supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits) Special Arrangement 2020.  

The amendment: 

  • enables a prescriber to send a digital image of a prescription to a dispenser 
  • gives a temporary exemption from the requirement to send paper copies of some prescriptions to dispensers 
  • recognises digital images of prescriptions sent and dispensed under the special arrangement since 26 March 2020 as complying with the HDPR. 

The amendment regulation will be found on the Queensland Legislation website later this week.


Free NBN upgrade for telehealth providers now available (13 May 2020)

As an essential service, telehealth providers are eligible for complementary upgrade offers from the NBN. Telehealth providers on 12/1Mbps can be upgraded to 25/5Mbps (wholesale speed tiers) and those on plans based on the 25/5Mbps to 50/20Mbps, or Fixed Wireless Plus (wholesale speed tiers), where available.

This offer is now available for six months, starting from May 2020. If you are a telehealth provider interested in this offer, read this NBN flyer.


Public Health Alert No.13 – clarification on COVID-19 testing (7 May 2020)

The Queensland Government has released its latest novel coronavirus (COVID-19) Public Health Alert to assist Queensland clinicians to diagnose and/or treat patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Public Health Alert No.13 – 7 May 2020 provides clarification about COVID-19 testing of ambulatory patients and notification.


Free healthdirect Video Call telehealth service for GPs now available (29 April 2020)

How do I register?
Registrations for a healthdirect Video Call license are open via the online registration form.

Only one person from your practice should register – this will usually be the practice manager, but could be a GP or other administrative person.

About healthdirect Video Call telehealth service for GPs
To support the secure delivery of video-based telehealth, the Australian Government Department of Health is fully funding access to healthdirect Video Call for General Practitioners (GPs) in Australia until the end of September 2020 (in line with the temporary MBS telehealth items). This is separate to the current trial that is in place that will be completed at end of June 2020.

How will I know when I have been set up on Video Call?
Once the registration for your practice is processed, you will receive an email that provides access to your account and an easy-to-follow starter guide.

Where can I learn more?
If you would like to familiarise yourself with the healthdirect Video Call environment, watch this video to find out how easy it is to use, or browse the Video Call Resource Centre.

What about privacy?
healthdirect Video Call mirrors a physical visit to a GP, making it easy for patients, clinicians, and administrators. healthdirect Video Call safeguards privacy by leaving no digital footprint. Other video call platforms (such as FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook) store a recording of the call in a server which may put GPs at risk of breaching privacy legislation. Find out more about healthdirect Video Call privacy.

Also, see more about how healthdirect Video Call is different from traditional video conferencing platforms.

Do I need to update my NBN?
The Australian Government has announced that the NBN will offer GP clinics the opportunity to upgrade their connection to a 50/20 service at no extra cost for six months. A 50/20 service can support multiple video conferencing streams simultaneously. If you have a 12/1 or 25/5 service, speak to your NBN provider to get the extra bandwidth at no additional cost.

Need to know more?
Healthdirect is conducting introductory webinars on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3pm-4pm AEST,  with any General Practice who would like to learn more about the platform. These webinars will run each week between 22 April–8 May 2020.   

Register now for one of these webinars.


Public Health Alert No.12 (24 April 2020)

Public Health Alert No.12 – 24 April 2020 – includes expanding testing criteria to include Queensland Police Officers presenting with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.

Testing (PCR) should now be undertaken for anyone in Queensland with fever (≥38°C) OR history of fever (e.g. night sweats, chills) OR acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat).


Clarification about digital prescriptions in Queensland (15 April 2020)

The Commonwealth arrangement states that a prescriber can send a clear copy of a prescription (a digital image such as a photo or pdf including the barcode where applicable) to a patient’s pharmacy of choice via email, text message or fax.

While the Commonwealth has enabled this arrangement for the purpose of claiming on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the arrangement can only be given effect in Queensland if changes are made to the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (HDPR).

Currently, a valid prescription must be presented in its original form, by fax or by telephone (and in the latter two cases, the original prescription must be posted to the pharmacist within seven days). A digital image of a prescription is not a valid prescription in Queensland.

Queensland Health is exploring regulatory options to enable a digital image of a prescription to be sent in accordance with the Commonwealth arrangement. In the meantime, prescribers are reminded that prescriptions can only be presented to pharmacists in their original form, by fax or by telephone (again, followed by the paper prescription in the latter two cases).


Free NBN upgrade for GP clinics (14 April 2020)

In response to the rapid expansion of telehealth services, NBN Co has announced it is upgrading Australian GP clinics to 50Mbps download and 20Mbps upload connections at no extra cost for a period of six months.

To access the upgrade, contact your internet provider. Read more


Temporary changes to e-Prescribing (8 April 2020)

The Australian Government Department of Health has published a fact sheet about the temporary changes (until 30 September 2020 at this time) for prescribers. A few key points:

  • Schedule 8 and 4(D) medicines such as opioids and fentanyl are not part of this interim arrangement
  • Medicines will only be delivered to the address printed on the prescription.
  • A new electronic prescribing (EPP) system is being developed that will generate QR codes sent to patients’ devices. It is expected around May.

Expanded testing – Brisbane/Gold Coast/Cairns (6 April 2020)

Queensland has 32 cases of COVID-19 unable to be linked with travel or contact with a confirmed case.Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young announced today that anyone presenting to a GP or fever clinic in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Cairns with respiratory symptoms indicative of COVID-19 will now be tested.

Testing for COVID-19 in these three centres will now be expanded to help determine any levels of community transmission. 

  • Everyone who is tested should be considered a ‘suspected case’ (and should therefore self-isolate pending test results)
  • Household contacts should be treated as ‘close contacts’ (i.e. they should be in quarantine pending test results)

The testing criteria may be expanded to include other areas, depending on the number of COVID-19 cases unable to be linked with travel or contact with a confirmed case.


Free EAP support for General Practice and pharmacy staff (31 March 2020)

NQPHN is now offering FREE EAP support for all general practice and pharmacy staff in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to enhance the emotional, mental, and general psychological wellbeing of all employees and includes services for immediate family members.

To access this confidential service, please contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728 and identify as one of these groups when calling into our service, starting with Northern Queensland Primary Health Network, then either Chemist Staff or GP staff.

For more information on AccessEAP, visit their website at www.accesseap.com.au

NQPHN has also created an EAP support poster to advise staff of the service availability:

The guidelines summarise interim recommendations for surveillance, infection control, laboratory testing and contact management for COVID-19.


Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services overview (30 March 2020)

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.

Useful telehealth resources


The Department of Health website is regularly being updated with the latest news, alerts, and resources. Please visit the Department of Health website for the most current information www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov


Information and resources