Supporting primary care
We can vastly improve outcomes for our community when we prepare and respond to emergencies together. We have developed an Action Plan: Disaster and Preparedness Response focusing on disaster planning, role clarification, relationships and partnerships, workforce wellbeing and resilience, and communication and information systems.
The role of primary care in disasters
General practices play a critical role in responding to emergencies and should consider a business continuity plan in the event of a disaster.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) developed the Managing emergencies in general practice guide to assist practices in disaster preparation, response and recovery.
Phoenix Australia also developed resources for GPs working in bushfire affected communities.
Disaster response register
We maintain a register of primary health care providers willing to assist during a disaster situation.
Expressed availability is voluntary and continually assessed throughout the situation.
Those willing to provide in person or telehealth support during these times are contacted to provide assistance at a designated site - which could include a residential aged care facility, general practice, evacuation and/or recovery centre.
Key sources of COVID-19 information
Find vaccine guidance from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
Visit your local HealthPathways site for current clinical guidance.
ACT and Southern NSW (username: together | password: forhealth):
Illawarra Shoalhaven (username: connected | password: 2pathways):
Resources to help prepare, respond and recover
We have a role in the immediate response to disaster situations, plus a growing role helping source and coordinate people or resources that can assist in response and recovery. Find further information, advice and resources below.
Some tips to help your practice prepare for an emergency or disaster include:
- download our 'General Practice Disaster management toolkit' which helps practices identify and implement processes to prepare, respond and recover from an emergency or a disaster
- develop an up-to-date emergency response plan
- exercise your plan on a regular basis (refer to this disaster planning and response checklist)
- contact other practices in your local area and agree on how you can offer mutual support
- have a plan in place to send communications to patients about service disruptions or changes.
The most effective support during a time of disaster is to consider extending general practice opening hours to accommodate an increase in patient demand.
If your general practice needs support, please complete a request with your details via this link.
We work closely with the Local Health Districts (LHDs) and emergency response agencies, who have frontline roles under statewide emergency management arrangements, to ensure that any resources we can source are provided in a coordinated way. You can also join our disaster response register if you are willing to assist during a disaster situation by providing in person or telehealth support.
There is never a wrong time to seek help. Here are some options for support below:
- DRS4DRS: an independent program providing doctor-to-doctor confidential support and resources. Call (07) 3833 4352.
- Nurse Support Line: support service for primary health care nurses, providing access to professional advice and guidance. Call 1300 303 184.
- RACGP The GP Support Program: a free and confidential psychological support service available to all members. Call 1300 361 008.
- We partnered with David Younger, Clinical Psychologist, to produce two short videos with information about self-care during emergencies:
Resources for your patients
Support your patients to prepare for emergencies with the resources below:
MBS telehealth items introduced on a temporary basis in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have now been made permanent. Find out more here.
You can also find information on temporary MBS items to support with treating COVID-19 positive patients.
To assist practices in implementing these items, we partnered with healthdirect Australia to provide free access to their Video Call platform. Video Call is a telehealth platform that is web based, secure, has a virtual waiting room environment for patients and is purpose built for health care.
If you do not currently have a telehealth platform or would like any information or support, please contact our Digital Health Team via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 069 002.
Further information and resources can be found at the following links:
The Department of Health and Aged Care introduced the Allied Health in Residential Aged Care Facilities – COVID Allied Health Package. This package was made available to improve access to allied health professionals and mental health services for those living in residential aged care.
Watch the webinars below to learn about the benefits of these services for residents, the types of services available, referral pathways and care coordination:
- Live panel discussion with local clinicians webinar 1 and webinar 2
- Allied and mental health services is RACFs webinar 1, webinar 2 and webinar 3
- Continuing To Be Me (C2bMe) local GP conversations
- C2bMe program webinar 1 and webinar 2
We are conducting ongoing work to support pandemic planning and are inviting GPs and nurses to provide details of any services they provide to aged care facilities in their region. Complete the online form here.
Department of Health and Aged Care resources
- COVID-19 guidelines for infection prevention and control in RACFs
- First 24 hours: managing COVID-19 in a RACF
- Guidelines for outbreaks in RACFs
NSW Health resources
We are committed to supporting general practice through every phase of a disaster or medical emergency. See below two case studies from practices in our PHN region on how they navigated the pandemic:
As all general practices have had to adapt rapidly to the increase in demand from patients for support with COVID-19, it’s great when we can share experiences between local practices. Some practices have shared their current workflows to support others also experiencing similar challenges:
We have developed a quality improvement toolkit, Living with COVID in the community, to help practices identify and implement processes to support at-risk members of the community.
In March 2022 we held two infection control webinars, you can find the recordings below:
- Webinar 1: COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and ventilation update
- Webinar 2: Basic infection prevention and control
COORDINARE's new quality improvement toolkit, Living with COVID in the community, supports general practice to review practice systems in the context of COVID-19 being the new normal and implementing improvements to ensure practices are best placed to provide patients with the right care, at the right time. The toolkit focuses on four patient management activities including:
- at-risk patients
- managing COVID-19-positive patients and prescribing antiviral therapies
- follow-up of patients after COVID-19 infection
- identification and management of patients with Post COVID-19 or Long COVID.
We recently held two Long COVID education sessions to support GPs understanding, managing, and diagnosing Long COVID. Speakers included Professor Steven Faux, Allison Maher, Ruth Nelson and Dr Stuart Tan. You can find the recordings below:
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has created a guide for patients on managing post COVID-19 symptoms at home. It includes advice on managing fatigue, easing muscle and joint pain, and managing a cough or any breathlessness. Other useful resources include:
- Getting help for Long COVID - Department of Health and Aged Care
- Long COVID - NSW Health
- Understanding post COVID-19 symptoms and Long COVID - healthdirect
- Long COVID Resources - Lung Foundation Australia
Vulnerable populations may require specific support throughout COVID-19. See below for some useful resources:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- COVID-19 and flu Aboriginal health resources - NSW Health
- COVID-19 resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals – Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) and partners
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and COVID-19 – Department of Health and Aged Care
- Guide to COVID-19 – Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association
Culturally and linguistically diverse communities
- COVID-19 in-language resources – NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service
- Easy read and translated resources – NSW Health