Infection control

The APA is working hard to keep these FAQs current and reflective of the rapidly evolving advice.

If you do come across FAQs that require attention please email Advocacy Team

Updated 6 April 2020

Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly. People with coronavirus may experience:

  • fever
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • tiredness
  • shortness of breath

Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses. You should:

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
  • cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • if unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people)
  • exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures

We recommend that individual practices should implement a suitable plan to manage staff that minimises risk of infection. This will vary from practice to practice. For up to date information on infection minimisation, updates are available at www.health.gov.au.

As of 11 March 2020, the Department of Health has released the following information sheets to assist with this:

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has also released Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines which can be accessed at: here.

Before attendance

Develop a system, prior to attendance (e.g. phone call, SMS), to ask patients whether they’ve been overseas or have had close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 while infectious, in the 14 days before the scheduled appointment.

If the patient meets the above criteria:

  • consider alternate methods of conducting the appointment if appropriate (e.g. telephone or tele-medicine)
  • if it is not possible to conduct the appointment in an alternate way, reschedule their appointment for as soon as possible after the 14 day exclusion
  • remind them they are to self-isolate at home for 14 days after they departed from overseas or if they have had close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 while infectious
  • remind them if they develop respiratory symptoms or fever to call their local GP.

Note, facilities will need to develop a system to implement the above steps, including appointing an appropriate person to assess whether or not it’s safe to defer the outpatient appointment.

During attendance

Consider options to identify patients in the outpatient clinic waiting room, eg. waiting room posters, asking patients at reception whether they have been overseas in the last 14 days or have had close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 while infectious, in the previous 14 days.

For patients who meet the above criteria:

  • ask the patient to wear a surgical mask
  • ask the patient if they have any respiratory symptoms or fever.

For patients who meet the above criteria within 14 days of their appointment and who do not report any respiratory symptoms or fever if clinic chooses to see them, they may:

  • continue the consultation as normal, with the patient wearing a surgical mask
  • remind the patient that they should self-isolate themselves at home for 14 days after departing overseas countries or if have had contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 while infectious

For patients who meet the above criteria and who report symptoms refer the patient to their local general practitioner.

Other guidance:

  • where possible, ensure availability of surgical masks and hand hygiene facilities

Source: NSW Health COVID-19: Interim guidance for elective surgery and outpatient clinics

It is reasonable to screen any patients or staff on the basis of known coronavirus infection criteria including physical symptoms and travel overseas.

On the basis of this information, you may request a patient delay attendance for 14 days or, until no longer symptomatic. For further information, we recommend reviewing the guidelines found in the AHPRA Code of Conduct for Registered Health Practitioners Section 2.4, page 4.

Please see the Department of Health Fact Sheet for information with dealing suspected coronavirus cases.

As per advice on the Department of Health website on 20 March 2020, if you have come in close contact with a confirmed case, you will need to isolate for 14 days. Let your employer know if you need to self-isolate. Depending on the type of work you do and if you are well, your employer may discuss other arrangements such as work from home. For further information, please refer to the Department of Health factsheet.

You can still go to work if you have:

  • had casual contact with COVID-19 cases and are well
  • directly cared for confirmed cases while using PPE properly

Monitor yourself for symptoms and self-isolate if you become unwell.

Please check the Department’s website for any relevant updates on this.

 

The APA have developed resources to support our membership in managing infection control and prevention.

We will advise members as new resources become available.

The Commonwealth Department of Health has also developed two posters and these can be found at the links below:

Other posters can also be found on state and territory Department of Health websites.

 

The APA does not supply face masks. With the emergence of COVID-19 across many countries, there is a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), including surgical masks and P2/N95 respirators. As a first step in releasing PPE from the National Medical Stockpile, the Australian Government has provided a limited supply of surgical masks (1,125,000) and P2/N95 respirators (27,200) for general practices (including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services) and community pharmacies with a demonstrated need.

Please see the fact sheet for information with dealing suspected coronavirus cases: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/interim-...

Surgical masks supplied in tranche 1 and 2 are intended to be provided to general practices and, when no local commercial supply is available, community pharmacies:

There is no need for the general public or health workers to wear masks unless they are dealing with symptomatic patients. For further information on when personal protective equipment is required, the following webinar has been provided by the Department of Health .

The APA cannot advise on whether you can make your own PPE and we recommend that PPE is sourced from commercial organisations when available. For further information regarding PPE, please see the relevant Department of Health factsheet.

The Department of Health has recently made an Infection Control Training Module, “How to protect yourself and the people you are caring for from infection with COVID-19" available online. Please click here to register.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare also provides Infection Prevention and Control eLearning Modules and an online module on Hand Hygiene.

This is dependant on the state in which you are practicing. Some states definitively outline there are no exceptions to the use of pools, including healthcare, whereas others allow hydrotherapy to occur with a registered health professional. We recommend you check your State or Territory Department of Health website below for more information.

If using an external facility you should also check if the pool you use is open as many councils have closed their pools due to the current restrictions.

In the states which haven’t definitively prohibited the use of pools, we believe it is possible for 1:1 hydrotherapy to continue provided the physiotherapist is confident they have mitigated all risks of cross contamination of COVID-19.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare also provides Infection Prevention and Control eLearning Modules and an online module on Hand Hygiene.