COVID-19 testing prioritisation alert
TNSW Health Pathology is now further prioritising and fast-tracking COVID-19 testing for certain groups of people where the consequences for their health and the health system are the highest.
Inpatients in critical care areas (ICU, ED)
Inpatients in other hospital wards
Healthcare Workers (HCWs).
Attached is a clinical alert for the prioritisation process, along with updated COVID-19 testing flowcharts (including one specifically for ICUs) reflecting that John Hunter and Royal North Shore laboratories are now online for dedicated COVID-19 testing.
Please refer to the NSW Health Pathology intranet site for verified information on COVID-19 testing.
It also includes a list of NSWHP laboratories providing COVID-19 testing.
Contact for more information
Submitted by Polina Matveycheva on behalf of NSW Health Pathology
Free CBT (Psychology) courses for patients
The This Way Up Clinic which is a partnership between St Vincent's and UNSW are offering 30 days of free internet cognitive behavioural therapy courses (iCBT).
Clinicians may want to recommend these courses to their patients who they may not be able to see in person due to COVID-19. The range of online programs includes courses on depression, anxiety, insomnia and more.
Click here for more information.
Contact for more information
Submitted by Shaheen Badat
COVID-19: Advice for healthcare workers, staff, healthcare students and volunteers in NSW Health facilities who have travelled overseas, had contact with a case, or develop an acute respiratory illness as at 17 March 2020
Travelled overseas in the past 14 days
From 16 March 2020, all overseas travellers, including all healthcare workers, staff, healthcare students and volunteers, must:
self-isolate at home other than for seeking individual medical care for 14 days from the day of return from overseas
if fever or respiratory illness (even if mild) occur, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222 for advice or call ahead before seeing your GP or go directly to the local Emergency Department or COVID-19 clinic
Note: For staff who returned to Australia from overseas between 2 March 2020 and 15 March 2020, the default is now that those staff should not attend work until 14 days have elapsed since their return from overseas. In settings where the absence of the healthcare worker will have a significant impact on health services a case by case risk assessment should be undertaken with input from the PHU. Work from home arrangements may be arranged where appropriate.
Contact with a COVID-19 case
All healthcare workers, staff, healthcare students and volunteers who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the previous 14 days must:
self-isolate at home other than for seeking individual medical care for 14 days from the last day of contact
monitor symptoms for 14 days since last contact
if fever or respiratory illness (even if mild) occur, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222 for advice or call ahead before seeing your GP or go directly to the local Emergency Department or COVID-19 clinic.
Acute respiratory illness in staff who have not travelled overseas in the last 14 days
Healthcare workers with acute respiratory illness should not work while they are symptomatic. This includes mild respiratory symptoms of recent onset and unexplained fever.
Healthcare workers who have fever OR respiratory symptoms must immediately self-isolate and should not return to duties until medically assessed. The need for testing and further isolation should be assessed on a case by case basis.
Healthcare workers who have fever AND respiratory symptoms must immediately self-isolate and should not return to duties until tested and cleared from COVID-19.
All Local Health Districts must have systems in place to arrange for the rapid medical assessment and, if recommended, testing of health care workers for COVID-19.
Supervisors and managers must ensure that procedures are in place to ask every staff member at the beginning of each shift whether they have recent onset of respiratory symptoms or fever, and if so, to ensure staff who have symptoms are either excluded from work or assessed for COVID-19 and, if COVID-19 testing is recommended, to self-isolate until COVID-19 is excluded.
Attending a conference, workshop or other large event
On 11 March NSW Health advised that Health Agencies should suspend any new approvals of official overseas travel (regardless of the COVID-19 status of the destination) and consider alternatives to travel where practicable to do so. This will be continually monitored and reviewed.
Official overseas travel booked and approved prior to 5 March 2020 (including TESL)
If Government Smartraveller advice indicates ‘do not travel’, ‘reconsider your need to travel’ or ‘exercise a high degree of caution’, (including but not limited to due to COVID-19) travel is to be cancelled.
A documented risk assessment should be undertaken to determine whether such overseas travel should continue in light of the developing COVID-19 situation.
The risk assessment should be undertaken as soon as practicable to do so, to minimise impact on the individual staff member/s and maximise potential for refunding/ crediting/ cancellation of bookings.
Key considerations should include:
the staff member’s safety while overseas
identified requirements of the workforce surge plan in relation to the staff member
potential delayed return to Australia and potential quarantine period further delaying return to work once back in Australia
any exceptional circumstances
COVID-19 travel information provided at Smarttraveller - Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Where the status of the destination changes prior to departure and the Government Smartraveller advice indicates ‘do not travel’, ‘reconsider your need to travel’ or ‘exercise a high degree of caution’, (including but not limited to due to COVID-19) official overseas travel is to be cancelled and not proceed.
In addition, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on 13 March 2020, recommended that healthcare professionals and other critical workforce should limit their attendance to non-essential meetings and conferences.
This advice is in addition to the broader advice to limit all non-essential organised gatherings to fewer than 500 people.