Coronavirus (COVID-19) News & Frequently Asked Questions

Coronavirus (COVID-19) news

Primary Health Networks are working to support general practices and pharmacies to prepare to respond to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) which WHO has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The Australian Government Department of Health has distributed surgical and N95 masks to Primary Health Networks across Australia. Distribution of these masks is being coordinated, according to a prioritisation process, due to the limited supply of masks nationally.

This is a rapidly changing situation. Please check Please refer to the news and alerts section below for the latest information on distribution.

As this is a rapidly changing situation, please check the Department of Health WA website regularly to ensure the information you have is up to date.

For further assistance, general practice staff, GPs and pharmacists can Practice Assist on practiceassist@wapha.org.au or at 1800 227 747 (Monday – Friday, 8am to 5pm).

General practices and GPs can also contact their Primary Health Liaison contact.

 

News and alerts

News update 28 February
A limited supply of N95 masks is now being distributed to general practices across WA. 

Given the extremely limited national supply, each practice can be supplied with two N95 masks, if they have a stock level of less than 10 masks.

To request an allocation of masks, complete the online form.

N95 masks must only be used when medically managing a patient with severe pneumonia meeting the case definition for COVID 19, while awaiting transport to hospital, with one mask worn by the treating GP/ health professional, and the other by the patient. This is in line with Australian Department of Health and Department of Health WA guidelines https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus

Surgical masks remain the appropriate mask to use when assessing patients whose symptoms are suggestive of COVID-19 and meet the case definition.

If you deplete your stock of N95 masks by having to medically manage a patient with severe pneumonia meeting the case definition, you can request a further allocation. Complete this N95 mask reorder online form and your request will be considered from the 25 March onwards, if stocks have not already been exhausted.



Advice for pharmacies

13 February 2020

Given the ongoing national shortage of masks, we have had to prioritise the initial distribution of masks to pharmacies with a demonstrated need.
 
When assessing need in our previous distribution of surgical masks to general practice, we considered the following risk factors: having a relatively high number of foreign nationals including students and tourists; having a relatively large Aboriginal population; proximity to a port or airport; or having a relatively high number of patients with existing respiratory conditions; and having a low number of masks in stock. The same criteria are being applied to pharmacies.
 

Complete the online form here

To allow us to confirm your requirement and to meet some of the reporting requirements back to  the Australian Government Department of Health, please complete all fields in this online form.
 

Update on surgical mask distribution to general practices

12 February 2020
 
The national shortage of masks meant we had to prioritise the initial distribution to practices in areas whose demographic makeup indicated a relatively high-risk category.
 
To the best of our knowledge, we have contacted all WA general practices in metropolitan and country locations, including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, to confirm their delivery status. The vast majority of deliveries are now completed.
 
Further mask distribution will be determined based on identified need.

Complete the online form here

To allow us to confirm your requirement and to meet some of the reporting requirements back to  the Australian Government Department of Health, please complete all fields in this online form.

 

Announcement re the provision of Coronavirus masks to General Practices

30 January 2020

The Australian Government Department of Health is making available up to 1 million surgical masks to GPs and health workers via the PHNs in each state and territory.  In WA, this will be via WA Primary Health Alliance, as the operator of the state’s three PHNs.

The deployment of masks will occur next week. As soon as the criteria and method of delivery are established, we will provide this information to WA general practices.
 

More information

For health professionals

For up-to-date information on Coronavirus, visit the WA Health or the Australian Government Department of Health website.

For information specific to GPs and clinicians, please access the HealthPathways WA website. If required, email healthpathways@wapha.org.au for log on details.

For members of the public

The following helplines are available:

  • Call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 for people with questions regarding prevention and the spread of coronavirus.
  • Call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 to speak to a registered nurse who can provide advice as to the steps a person should take.


 

WA Health coronavirus update webinar

You can watch a webinar from WA Health on the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), first diagnosed in China in December 2019.

In this webinar, Professor Paul Effler, Senior Medical Advisor, Communicable Disease Control Directorate, Department of Health Western Australia provides an update on the current situation with GP specific advice.

To view the webinar, please click here.

Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

Why has Novel Coronavirus been renamed as COVID-19?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines identify best practice for naming new human diseases. The name COVID-19 allows accurate classification and of communication about the virus, particularly as the term coronavirus applies to a family of viruses.
 
As stated by the WHO: "given the increasingly rapid and global communication through social media and other electronic means, it is important that an appropriate disease name is assigned by those who first report a new human disease."
 

Why has the Department of Health WA implemented its COVID-19 emergency response plan? Is there now a pandemic?

As of Friday 28 Feburary, the World Health Organisation has not yet declared the COViD-19 outbreak to be a pandemic. However, the Australian Government and therefore the states and territores have decided to implement national and state emergency response plans due to the increasing likelihood of a pandemic to ensure we are well preared for cases to emerge locally. 

What do we do with the surgical masks we have been allocated?

The surgical masks provided through the Primary Health Networks are intended for single use by health professionals and patients, only when dealing with patients presenting with symptoms suggestive of Coronavirus. Due to a national 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.

Who is receiving N95 masks and how should they be used?

Given the national shortage, all WA general practics are being offered two N95 masks as a preparatory measure.

These must only be used when medically managing a patient with sever pneumonia meeting the case definition for COVID-19, while awaiting transport to hospital, with one mask worn by the treating GP/health professional, and the other by the patient. This is in line with Australian Departemnt of Health and Departmen tof Health WA guidelines  https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus

Surgical masks remain the appropriate mask to use when assessing patients whose symptoms are suggestive of COVID-19 and meet the case definition.
 

Why are more surgical masks than N95 masks being provided?

While 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 coronavirus. 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). 

 

Some information sources say surgical masks are ineffective in protecting from the virus, so why are you distributing them?

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.

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-information-sheet-for-primary-and-community-health-workers
 
https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus

Why are pharmacies not receiving N95 masks?

Given the national shortage, N95 masks are being supplied for use in general practice, only when a severely ill patient presents with pneumonia like symptoms, while they await transfer to hospital. It is most likely that people coming to a pharmacy will have milder symptoms, therefore the surgical masks will provide adequate protection.

Can I get P2/ N95 masks from WA Health?

We understand that, at this stage, the WA Department of Health, is not in a position to supply these masks. Check  https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus for updates around confirmed cases in WA.

What if we don’t need the masks, or have excess supply?

You do not need to return the masks. If you have not yet received them, and do not want them, please advise us and we will reallocate to other practices or pharmacies.

I am a general practice / pharmacy and I did not receive surgical masks in the initial distribution round, Can I still request some?

All practices/ pharmacies can now apply via this online form. Your application will be assessed using the same criteria as before, due to the ongoing limited supply nationally.

When will more masks be available and how can I reorder?

All practices that did not receive an initial allocation in the first round of allocations, can now re-apply via this online form. Your application will be assessed using the same criteria as before, due to the ongoing limited supply nationally.

How do I order other personal protective equipment such as gowns or goggles?

PHNs have only been provided with limited supplies of surgical and N95 masks, the latter for general practice use only.

You should contact your usual supplier if you require additional stock.

 

Can you give me clinical information about how to handle these patients?

You should seek further advice from your local WA Health public health unit.

You should visit WA Health’s website which has regularly updated comprehensive information https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus

Where can we get more information on how to respond to these patients?

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. 

https://www.racgp.org.au/ 

HealthPathways also has the latest information available, as well as relevant clinical pathways for your use. For up to date information, you can access the HealthPathways WA website. If required, email healthpathways@wapha.org.au for log on details. 
 

Should I be taking specimens from / testing a patient?

You should seek further advice from your local WA Health public health unit.

You should visit WA Health’s website which has regularly updated comprehensive information https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus

I am a pharmacy and I want to get masks. How can I do so?

If your pharmacy wants to be considered for an allocation of masks, the quickest way to do so is by completing this online form.

Was the requirement for masks for general practices and pharmacies assessed in the same way?

General practices and pharmacies were assessed using the same criteria.
 
We were able to make the assessment of need for general practices based on existing data available to us.
 
We do not have the same information available for pharmacies, so needed to request it from them directly to inform our assessment.

I am an allied health professional / other health professional and I want to get masks. How can I do so?

The Australian Government Department has instructed us to supply masks only to general practice.

We suggest you contact your normal supplier. If you don’t have a supplier, you can find suppliers by searching google for medical supplies. We are seeking advice from the Australian Government Department of Health in the situation where you cannot obtain stocks commercially and we will update this advice accordingly.

Practice Assist acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners and Elders of this country
and recognises the significant importance of their cultural heritage, values and beliefs and how these
contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of the whole community.