Commonwealth and State supplies of surgical masks are critically low. According to the World Health Organization, demand for face masks is up to 100 times higher than normal and rapidly outpacing supply.
WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) has, to date distributed 97,000 masks to General Practice and Pharmacy in response to the pandemic, as part of the national Australian Government supply.
These surgical masks are intended for single use by health professionals and patients, only when dealing with patients presenting with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.
Due to the aforementioned shortage, they are not intended for wider use, such as in waiting rooms, or to be given to other patients, or sold to pharmacy customers.
WA Primary Health Alliance is currently distributing a limited supply of N95 masks to general practices across WA. The guideline for this distribution has been updated by the Australian Government.
N95 masks are to be reserved for patients with uncontrollable coughing, and those undergoing aerosol generating procedures, where they are not in close proximity to either an Emergency Department or COVID Clinic.
General practices are only expected to undertake detailed assessments, if there is no suitable facility for assessment nearby, for example an Emergency Department or COVID clinic.
As such, N95 masks are no longer being distributed to general practices in the metropolitan area, due to their proximity to either an Emergency Department or COVID Clinic to which they can refer a patient for a detailed assessment.
If your practice has already placed an order for N95 masks, your order will be fulfilled.
Read more about the eligibility guidelines, and guidance on the supply of masks from the National Medical Stockpile.
Surgical masks remain the appropriate mask to use when assessing patients whose symptoms are suggestive of COVID-19 and meet the case definition.
While extremely limited, stocks of surgical masks are more plentiful than N95 masks. Surgical masks are suitable for consultations with patients whose symptoms and epidemiological history are suggestive of COVID-19. It is likely that those patients will have relatively mild symptoms, therefore surgical masks are adequate.
Please visit WA Health’s website which has regularly updated comprehensive information https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus (or go to the home page health.wa.gov.au and click on the link to the coronavirus page).
According to the guidelines distributed by both the Australian Government Department of Health and WA Health, surgical masks do offer protection during routine consultations. Please refer to the links below.
N95 masks are to be reserved for patients with uncontrollable coughing, and those undergoing aerosol generating procedures, where they are not in close proximity to either an Emergency Department or COVID Clinic. Pharmacy will not be required to undertake these detailed assessments, and so N95 masks are not required.
Surgical masks are suitable for routine patient consultations with patients whose symptoms and epidemiological history are suggestive of COVID-19.
All practices and pharmacies can now apply via this online form.
All practices can now re-order via this online form.
PHNs have only been provided with limited supplies of surgical and N95 masks, the latter for use by general practices who do not have a suitable facility for assessment nearby, for example an Emergency Department or COVID clinic.
We do not have any other personal protective equipment to provide at this time.
You should visit WA Health’s website which has regularly updated comprehensive information https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus
The RACGP website also has information on infection control and pandemic management.
GPs are no longer to test for COVID-19. WA Health has confirmed GPs should refer patients to COVID clinics or, in regional areas where they are not available, a public hospital, health services or remote clinic. The full list of clinics is available here.
The Australian Government Department has instructed us to supply masks to general practices and pharmacies only. The Australian Government Department of Health are aware of supply chain issues and are actively investigating alternatives. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.
25 March 2020: NEW PROCESS FOR ORDERING PPE SUPPLIES FOR AGED CARE SECTOR
Aged care providers that require Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must now email firstname.lastname@example.org for all requests – please don’t approach Primary Health Networks (in WA, this is WA Primary Health Alliance).
All requests will be triaged by the Australian Government Department of Health with priority given to facilities, programs and workers where there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The following information must be provided in your email request:
If your facility, program or service is experiencing an outbreak of influenza the above process also applies. The Department of Health will triage your request to determine priority and may be in contact with you for further information. Once approved the request for supplies will be shared with the National Incident Room who will work with your State or Territory Government to distribute the supplies.
It is important to remember that if you do not have a confirmed case of COVID-19 within your facility, program or service you should expect delays in receiving your PPE due to the increase in demand.
WA Health does not recommend the use of facemasks for the general community (who have no symptoms of respiratory illness), to prevent the risk of contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The community can find out more practical information about the virus, including what they can do to protect themselves, on the Healthy WA website.
Until we receive further advice from the Department of Health WA, our advice remains the same with regard to social distancing, hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Practices should continue to operate as per the WA Department of Health’s COVID-19 clinician guidelines
General practice should remain very much aware of the higher risk categories:
You should remind patients to continue to protect themselves with regard to social distancing, hand hygiene and cough etiquette. You should also encourage them to have their flu vaccination and pneumonia vaccination when recommended, while assisting them to keep their health conditions under the best possible control.
For COVID-19 information relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, visit the NACCHO Coronavirus site and subscribe to the NACCHO Communique
The RACGP has regularly updated advice here