Toolkit to get practices through a tough winter

2 minute read

A new resource is available to help GPs manage as multiple infectious diseases stretch the health system.

The RACGP has launched a “winter planning toolkit” designed to help practices protect the health and safety of their patients and teams as they face a challenging winter.

A covid and flu double-whammy had long been anticipated. However, the resurgence in RSV – a notifiable condition since last July – has compounded this. The reopening of international borders, bringing greater population movement, along with relaxed covid restrictions such as mask requirements, has further increased the risks of infection.

The college’s toolkit comprises seven modules covering several winter preparedness topics, including:

  • Vaccination, including both patient and staff vaccination and flu clinics
  • Preventative measures, including risk identification and the practices and equipment needed to prevent infection
  • Testing, both for flu and covid
  • Patient management, including triage, signage and after-hours and telehealth consultations
  • Providing care for priority populations, such as the aged and people with disabilities
  • Staffing, including surge capacity and disaster management
  • Infection prevention education for patients and staff

The resource is presented in modules and is worth two self-reported CPD points per hour under health and wellbeing.

Practices considering making covid vaccination mandatory for patients who request a face-to-face consultation should also consider introducing alternative methods of protection, such as improved infection prevention and control processes; adequate ventilation, with six to eight fresh air changes per hour; and the use of telehealth consultations. The RACGP recommends practices considering the mandatory vaccination option should first discuss it with their medical defence organisation.

The college said the toolkit was also relevant to northern parts of Australia experiencing the dry season at this time since it is common to see an increase in infection risk due to a rise in tourism.

Earlier today, Victoria announced its month-long free flu shot program, with the NT, ACT and Tasmania now the only jurisdictions not offering free vaccines.

A government package announced in mid-March to combat covid and flu was generally well received, both by the RACGP and ACRRM. The package included $1.2 billion to protect the residential aged and disability care sectors; $356 million to protect other vulnerable population groups; and $571 million for vaccines.

DoH figures released earlier today showed that between 1 March and 30 May, more than seven million flu vaccinations were delivered nationwide, including 4.8 million provided by GPs and 1.4 million by pharmacists.

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