COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Testing & clinical information

How can I access information on all aspects of clinical assessment, testing and management, and practice management related to COVID-19?

Our HealthPathways WA website has developed detailed pathways to cover clinical, practice management and other scenarios related to COVID-19. Please refer to the  
HealthPathways COVID-19 section, or any of the individual pathways below:
   
Email healthpathways@wapha.org.au for login details if you do not already have access to HealthPathways.

Masks & Other PPE

Section 1: WA Primary Health Alliance PPE

Are masks still in short supply?


While supplies of many PPE items have improved, they are still limited.
 
We are making every effort to ensure mask orders are fulfilled as soon as possible.
 
Visit our Mask Distribution webpage for more information.
 

What kinds of masks are you distributing?

The vast majority of masks we are distributing are surgical masks to general practices, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, pharmacies and allied health practices, based on guidelines from the Australian Government Department of Health.
 
We are also distributing N95 masks to a very small number of general practices in regional areas, who meet strict criteria. This means they are expected to undertake detailed assessments because there is no suitable facility for assessment nearby, for example an Emergency Department, COVID clinic or GP Respiratory Clinic.
 

How many surgical masks can I order if I am a general practice?

The maximum number of boxes you will be allocated each time will be based on the number of GPs providing face to face appointments at your practice.
 
1-10 GPs = 2 boxes
> 10 GPs = 4 boxes
 
Re-orders will not be accepted within five business days (Mon-Fri) of the previous request, except in exceptional circumstances. 
 
Please call Practice Assist on 1800 227 747 or email practiceassist@wapha.org.au if you require resupply in less than a week since last allocation.
 

How many surgical masks can I order if I am a pharmacy or allied health practice?

Pharmacies and allied health practices can order 1 box per pharmacy or practice, based on the Australian Government Department of Health’s Distribution of PPE through PHNS Tranche 4 guidelines.
 
Re-orders will not be accepted within five business days (Mon-Fri) of the previous request, except in exceptional circumstances. 
 
Please call Practice Assist on 1800 227 747 or email practiceassist@wapha.org.au if you require resupply in less than a week since last allocation.
 

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

These surgical masks are intended for 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.

Please read WA Department of Health’s Conservation of PPE Fact Sheet.

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/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-the-health-and-disability-sector/personal-protective-equipment-ppe-for-the-health-workforce-during-covid-19
 
https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus
 

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

WA Primary Health Alliance is currently distributing a limited supply of N95 masks to general practices and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.
 
Updated guidelines for the use of N95 masks confirm these are to be used ONLY by the health care professional caring for the very sick patient, suspected of having COVID-19 and not the patient, who should be given a surgical mask.
 
N95 masks are to be reserved for health professionals dealing with patients with uncontrollable coughing, and when undertaking aerosol generating procedures.
 
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 not 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.
 
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.
 

Why are pharmacies and allied health practices not receiving N95 masks?

Surgical masks are suitable for routine patient consultations with patients whose symptoms and epidemiological history are suggestive of COVID-19.

According to  Australian Government Department of Health guidelines, distribution of N95 respirators is limited to general practices, including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, who need to assess suspected COVID-19 cases because of the unavailability of nearby dedicated respiratory clinics or emergency departments (e.g. in some rural and remote communities).

Such practices need to have isolation facilities and other appropriate infrastructure, staff competent in use of PPE, and a pandemic plan. Additionally, N95 respirators should only be used with other PPE (gowns, gloves and eye protection).

How do I access other personal protective equipment such as gowns, goggles, or hand sanitiser?

PHNs have only been provided with limited supplies of surgical and N95 masks, the latter for use by general practices and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations who do not have a suitable facility for assessment nearby, for example an Emergency Department, COVID clinic or GP Respiratory Clinic.

Other personal protective equipment we receive is strictly for use by Australian Government endorsed GP Respiratory Clinics.
We do not have any other personal protective equipment to provide to other health services and professionals at this time.
 
You may be able to access supplies via other suppliers. See Section 2 of this FAQ. 
 

How do NDIS and disability providers get masks?

Access to masks for these sets of care workers is being kept under review and may be considered as more stocks become available and if risks increase. In the interim, the best way for care workers to protect themselves and the people they are caring for is to undertake the training available at covid-19training.gov.au
 
Please send all general queries in relation to the National Medical Stockpile to Stockpile.Ops@health.gov.au
 

How do home / aged care providers get masks?

Aged care providers that require Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must email agedcarecovidppe@health.gov.au for all requests.

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 to the Australian Government Department of Health:

  • the facility, program or service requiring PPE
  • if you have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 at your facility, program or service
  • types and quantities of PPE required – please note, only surgical masks are available at this stage and other PPE will be provided when available
  • details of other suppliers you have attempted to source PPE stock from.

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.

Masks & Other PPE

Section 2: Other Suppliers of PPE

Where else can I order PPE from?

In addition to ordering PPE from WA Primary Health Alliance, please find a number of alternative suppliers below.
 

Western Australia

AMA Medical Products are currently facilitating the purchase and distribution of PPE to out-of-hospital Western Australian health services.
 
View and order products here.
 
WA customers can use the discount code “AMAWA” to get 5% off their first order.
 
BP Medical
1300 33 55 60
https://www.bpmedical.com.au/

 

East Coast

 
EBOS Healthcare
1800 269 534
https://www.eboshealthcare.com.au/
 
Livingstone International
02 8344 7300
https://www.livingstone.com.au/
 
Sanera Medical Products
02 8894 0317
https://sanera.com.au/
 

Online

Med Shop
1300 22 44 50
https://www.teammed.com.au/
 

Prescribing

How are you preparing us for the changes to electronic prescribing from 1 June?

The Australian Government has accelerated the delivery of electronic prescriptions which will be introduced in a steady and managed approach from the end of May 2020.
 
Our primary care support team is preparing in several ways, including ensuring both general practices and pharmacies have the knowledge and systems in place to enable the next iteration of electronic prescriptions. Our team will be available to support you with these changes.
 
For more information please visit our Electronic Prescribing page.
 

How can I issue a prescription to a patient following a telehealth consultation?

Western Australia has issued an authorisation under the Public Health Act 2016 Use of digital images for supply of medicines during COVID-19 telehealth arrangements to allow pharmacists to dispense from a digital copy of a prescription. This authorisation complements the Commonwealth’s Extension to Image Based Prescription Special Arrangement.

Prescribers can issue a paper prescription during a telehealth consultation. The prescription must contain all the usual information and be signed. Prescriptions for both Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines can be issued.

The prescriber can:
  • Fax a copy to the patient’s pharmacy of choice
  • Create a clear digital image of the prescription (photo or .pdf), including the eRx barcode (if applicable) and email or text the image to the patient’s pharmacy of choice.
The pharmacist can dispense the full quantity prescribed from the faxed copy or the digital image, for both Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines. For prescriptions for Schedule 8 medicines, the pharmacist must still be satisfied the prescription is authentic, which may require contacting the prescriber.

The usual record keeping and labelling requirements apply.

For Schedule 4 prescriptions, the prescriber does not have to provide the original prescription to the pharmacist. The pharmacist must keep the faxed copy or digital image of the prescription for 2 years and the prescriber must keep the original prescription for the same period.

For Schedule 8 prescriptions, the prescriber must send the original paper prescription to the pharmacy. The pharmacy must receive the original paper prescription within 10 working days of it being written. The pharmacy must keep the faxed copy or the digital image until the original paper prescription is received.

If the faxed copy or digital image of the prescription includes repeats, a repeat form must be generated and attached to a hard copy of the faxed copy or digital image. Repeats must be retained in the pharmacy and cannot be returned to the patient. Retention of repeats is required for both Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 prescriptions.

Read the full Advice here.
 

Which patients can have their medication delivered to their home?

Pharmacies are able to provide one free supply per month to the vulnerable population cohort as defined below or may charge for additional deliveries or may charge for people who do not meet the criteria.
 
The criteria to be met:

Patient holds a Medicare or DVA card and are:
  • Isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner, for confirmed COVID-19 cases; or
  • Meeting the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection after consultation with either the national COVID-19 hotline, state COVID-19 hotlines, a registered medical or nursing practitioner or COVID-19 trained health clinic triage staff; or
  • Aged over 70; or
  • Identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and are aged over 50; or
  • People with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised; or
  • Parents with new babies or people who are pregnant.
  • Patient requires the delivery of at least one PBS or RPBS medication
 
Read the Prescriber fact sheet and Consumer fact sheet.

Practice & Pharmacy Support

How are you communicating with practices about COVID-19?

WA Primary Health Alliance is sending a weekly GP Update, in conjunction with WA Department of Health, Australian Medical Association (WA), Rural Health West, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, WA General Practice Education and Training and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners WA.
 
You can subscribe to the update here.
 
Our practice support staff are in regular contact with general practices to offer advice and support, and our Practice Assist helpline has additional staffing to ensure calls are answered promptly.
 
Our Practice Assist website includes a dedicated COVID-19 section including resources, FAQs, and information on telehealth, MBS, webinars, PIP QI changes and much more.

How are you helping practices to implement telehealth?

WA Primary Health Alliance has partnered with Healthdirect Australia to support general practices in Western Australia to deliver video consulting capability in a bid to help contain the rapid spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Find out more and register your interest here.

What are you doing to support the wellbeing of general practice?

We have launched a free GP wellness program, offering up to three free confidential counselling sessions for GPs and practice staff. Find out more here.

What training and education are you offering at this time?

We have offered a series of webinars, on topics such as familiarisation with Health Direct Video Call, but also virtual Communities of Practice to discuss topics such as infection control, mental health and future proofing your practice during COVID-19. Find out more.
 
This is in addition to the intensive support provided by our practice support team, via our Practice Assist helpline and website, and the one-on-one practice interaction by our Primary Health Liaison team.
 

What are you doing to support pharmacies and allied health practices during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We are working closely with the WA branches of Pharmacy Guild and Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and allied health peak bodies to ensure their members are heard and informed.
 
This includes sending these organisations up to date information on mask ordering and other relevant information.

You can order masks via this online order form.
 
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.