Coronavirus (COVID-19) response

This page aims to link Tasmanian health professionals with the latest information on management of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Australia. If you are a community member, please go to this page which has information tailored for consumers rather than health professionals.

The response is being coordinated by the Australian Government Department of Health, supported by public health units in state health departments around the country. Tasmania’s Public Health Services and Primary Health Tasmania are working together to keep local health professionals up to date in changing circumstances.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. Up-to-date information is available via:

Key points for health professionals

  • COVID-19 is a notifiable disease in Tasmania under the Public Health Act 1997.
  • Health professionals are encouraged to be alert to the possibility of COVID-19 in patients who are showing a range of flu-like symptoms.
  • Current advice on testing and management is available via Tasmanian HealthPathways (see below).
  • Health professionals should use contact and droplet precautions when providing routine care to patients who may have COVID-19.

Tasmanian HealthPathways

As part of the ongoing COVID-19 response, Tasmanian HealthPathways has developed a suite of COVID-19 specific Pathways, to be updated on a regular basis. These Pathways are where local health professionals are encouraged to go if they want to get accurate, localised information about navigating care during the coronavirus response period, tailored to a variety of contexts.

These updates relates to new clinical information, Tasmanian and Australian Government recommendations and guidelines, business support, and changes to local services.

The full suite of Pathways currently includes:

  • COVID-19 Practice Preparation
  • COVID-19 Assessment and Management
  • COVID-19 Child Assessment and Management (new Pathway)
  • COVID-19 Requests
  • COVID-19 Information
  • COVID-19 Impact on Local Services
  • COVID-19 Recent Changes
  • COVID-19 Telehealth.

Tasmanian HealthPathways will also be maintaining an updated COVID-19 ‘Health Alert’ with current local, national and international recommendations and information.

If you are a health professional and haven’t used Tasmanian HealthPathways before, email providersupport@primaryhealthtas.com.au for the user name and password.

You can also download a fact sheet on how to use the COVID-19 Tasmanian HealthPathways here, and watch a short video tutorial here.

Whole-of-population telehealth expansion and the Medicare Benefits Schedule

The Australian Government has announced whole-of-population telehealth for patients, general practice, primary care and other medical services to support the response to COVID-19.

From 30 March 2020, telehealth (video-conference) and phone consultation items are available to all Australians. This is stage four of the COVID-19 response and is expected to be in place until 30 September 2020.

You can find out more about the stage four expansion here, and download an overarching fact sheet explaining the changes here.

You can find the latest news relating to the Medicare Benefits Schedule here.

Aphra has also created guidance about telehealth for practitioners, which you can access here.

Surgical masks

The Australian Government has released a number of single-use surgical masks from the national medical stockpile. They are being distributed by PHNs, including Primary Health Tasmania, to general practices and community pharmacies with an identified need.

Note that these are surgical face masks, not P2/N25 masks. They are for use by GPs, practice staff, pharmacists, pharmacy staff and patients ONLY where there is concern about possible coronavirus infection. They should not be given or sold to patients more broadly.

Primary Health Tasmania is also holding a stock of surgical masks for use in general practice and community pharmacies with no access to commercial supplies.

These masks are available on request by practices and pharmacies with no access to commercial supplies — to be delivered as soon as possible — and are only for use in the assessment of patients with suspected COVID-19.

PHNs are now able to distribute stocks to after-hours GP home-visiting services, medical deputising services and nurse practitioner-owned or led primary care practices in their area who do not have access to commercial supplies.

To request a supply, or if you have any questions, please email us via the button below, ensuring you coordinate requests through a single channel in your practice or pharmacy so we don’t receive duplicate requests.

Additionally, eligible allied health organisations may now apply for a stock of 50 surgical masks in limited circumstances. Interested organisations must use this allied health application form, and submit their completed form to providersupport@primaryhealthtas.com.au.

Please note: Applications for allied health organisations who do not meet the criteria, or do not use the application form, will not be processed.

The Australian Government has prepared a fact sheet with information for both health professionals and community members on the use of face masks.

GP-led respiratory clinics

Primary Health Tasmania has helped to set up four GP-led respiratory clinics across Tasmania as part of our role in the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These clinics are for assessing, testing and treating the 80 per cent of COVID-19 patients who will experience mild to moderate symptoms.

Click here to find out more.

Face shields

Primary Health Tasmania has a stock of face shields that may be allocated to general practices, pharmacies and allied health organisations.

Requests will now be assessed on a case-by-case basis. We ask that you please carefully consider the number of shields ideally required for your practice prior to submitting.

Please clearly state the number of face shields you require in an email to providersupport@primaryhealthtas.com.au, and please understand we may be unable to meet your request depending on availability.

Healthdirect Video Call pilot

Primary Health Tasmania is supporting the Healthdirect Video Call pilot  for Tasmanian general practices and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).

Under a special funding arrangement with the Australian Department of Health, Healthdirect’s Video Call platform is now available to general practices and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) in Australia until 30 September 2020.

Additionally, Primary Health Tasmania has secured approval for a number of allied health professions to participate in the pilot until June 30 2020 (this date is subject to review by the Australian Government Department of Health). This will make the application process significantly easier and more timely for allied health organisations wishing to participate.

General practices, ACCHS and allied health organisations wishing to participate in the pilot must review this information sheet and ask your practice manager to

Electronic prescribing

Changes have been made to Commonwealth legislation to recognise an electronic prescription as a legal form to allow medicine supply. This provides prescribers and patients with an alternative to paper prescriptions. Paper prescriptions will still be available.

Electronic prescribing will not fundamentally change existing prescribing and dispensing processes. It provides patients with greater choice and patients can still choose which pharmacy they attend to fill their prescription.

Under the National Health Plan for COVID-19, the Australian Government has accelerated the delivery of electronic prescribing and will be progressively available from the end of May 2020. The implementation of electronic prescribing to help protect people most at-risk from COVID-19.

More information for both prescribers and dispensers is available here.

COVIDSafe app

The COVIDSafe app is part of the Australian Government’s effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, and is completely voluntary.

Click here to find out more about the app.