Northside Health NT.
2 April 2020.
Northside doctors, nurses, practitioners and administrative staff are working calmly and proactively to keep you and ourselves as safe and healthy as possible now and for the weeks and months ahead.
Although we have not had any known cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in Darwin, we believe it is wiser to take a stance currently that presumes there could be unknown community cases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that doctors’ waiting rooms in Italy were a very significant source of COVID-19 transmission for that country. As such, we are taking it VERY seriously. We would rather be more proactive than less.
WE ARE NOW MOVING TO TELEHEALTH (PHONE OR VIDEO CONSULTS).
Northside will be transitioning to Telehealth consults via phone or video. This means that you are encouraged to do your consult from home on the phone.
AFTER 15 APRIL:
ALL CONSULTS WILL BE VIA PHONE & VIDEO.
$65 with no Medicare rebate for 15 minute phone consult with our experienced GPs.
BULKBILL: For people over 70, or with a medical condition that places them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, pregnant, under 16, with a child under 1, a Health Care Card OR who are under financial strain due to COVID-19.
Bulkbill also for: brief appointments not requiring discussions- prescriptions, extension of medical certificates, reprinting lost pathology forms, recalled pathology such as annual bloods due.
Medical certificates will be emailed to you.
Prescriptions, specialist referrals and pathology forms will be sent to your chosen provider.
All Care Plans and Mental Health Care Plans can be performed by Telehealth.
The current Telehealth items are for bulkbilling use only and provide $38.20 for consults up to 20 minutes in length. Our practice cannot survive on this income unless we shift to 6 minute consults like bulkbilling practices. We sincerely hope that the government will introduce rebates soon for all Australians to access non-bulkbilled Telehealth. We want to support you and stay open!
HOW DOES TELEHEALTH WORK?
You will receive the usual SMS reminder with your appointment time.
Please use this as a guide- your GP may not call at exactly this time.
KEEP YOUR PHONE WITH YOU AND BE READY.
Prepare a clear list of what you want to achieve in the consult.
You will have your consult via phone with your GP.
If you have Facetime, your GP might ask to convert the consult to Facetime so as to see something you need to show them.
We may use other video platforms to contact you on your phone.
If your doctor decides they need to see you in person, you will be asked to attend the practice that day or book for another day. Some examples of this might be a skin lesion of concern or a Cervical Screen Test.
Medical certificates will be emailed to you.
Prescriptions and pathology forms will be sent to your chosen provider.
Naturopath and psychologist consults will occur via Zoom video link.
OUR WAITING ROOM AND WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A COLD:
We are implementing various strategies in the waiting room to lower infection risk, such as removing reading material and placing Perspex screens at reception.
Please remember that everything we are doing is designed to protect you, and very vulnerable people who may be in the waiting room, and the practice staff who need to remain well to keep providing essential care in the next critical several months. We all need to be understanding and considerate towards each other at this time.
Anyone with any respiratory symptom is no longer able to wait in the waiting room. Please use your car as a private waiting room.
This includes: cough, cold, flu, sore throat, fever, runny nose, sneezes, sore ears, sore eyes, sinusitis, conjunctivitis or red eyes and anything else to do with your airways.
MILD COLDS: All mild respiratory illnesses (colds) should stay at home until fully recovered and only book a GP appointment if there is real need (eg. painful ears, tonsils, sinuses or severe cough). This reduces the burden on overloaded GPs at the moment and saves precious masks. It is also important to stop spreading ALL colds and infections to other people at the moment, to keep them stronger in case they also get COVID-19 or preventing a health worker having to stay at home due to a cold.
STAY AT HOME IF YOU HAVE A COLD. Wear a MASK if you have to go out.
MODERATE COLD SYMPTOMS: If your cold is more than mild (eg painful ears, tonsils, sinuses or severe cough) or you are at risk of problems such as an asthma exacerbation, you need to be assessed by a GP. This will occur initially by telephone then the GP may assess you in your car/ in the carpark. You may be asked to wear a mask. The GP will wear protective gear such as a mask, gown and goggles.
SEVERE COLD OR FLU: It is very important that you take action immediately however, if your mild flu or cold becomes more severe. Call us. Any sign of pneumonia such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, particularly with fever, requires an urgent visit to RDH ED, no matter what time of day or night. Pneumonia qualifies immediately for COVID-19 testing.
What if I am coming to the clinic for something else and I happen to have cold symptoms?
PLEASE DO NOT ENTER THE WAITING ROOM. Call reception. The consult can occur by telephone, to you in your car in the carpark, and scripts or paperwork brought out to you.
HOW TO MANAGE A MILD COLD OR FLU AT HOME.
Sleep and rest are very important. Implement the basics- healthy food, plenty of water, minimise sugar, caffeine and junk food.
Immune support: use vitamin C and herbs at hand such as ArmaForce, olive leaf or echinacea.
Symptom relief as required: decongestant nose sprays, cough lozenges and paracetamol. At this time, it appears best not to use ibuprofen as it appears to worsen COVID-19 symptoms.
If required, a medical certificate can be issued to you by one of our GPs using a Telehealth consult.
TELEHEALTH (PHONE CONSULTS).
Available to anyone.
Encouraged for all patients in risk categories such as over 70 or with chronic conditions, who do not need a physical examination, for example a script. Scripts can be brought out to your car to avoid entering the clinic environment or mailed to your pharmacy.
Patients with respiratory symptoms will also be required to consult by Telehealth.
Billed at $65 dependent on the duration of the consult. No Medicare rebate is available due to Medicare restrictions.
Brief consults are bulkbilled for people in high risk categories (chronic illness, over 70, ATSI over 50, pregnant, or with a baby under 12 months old), with a Health Care Card, under 16, and under financial strain currently.
FLU VACCINES- AVAILABLE NOW.
We remind all people who are eligible for free flu vaccines to book for vaccination NOW (over 65 years old, ATSI, pregnant women, or with a chronic health condition). Avoiding the flu will keep your immune system stronger if you do catch COVID-19.
Private flu vaccines for all other people are due to be available in April.
Pneumococcal vaccine is also free and recommended for the same groups.
WHAT DOES COVID-19 CAUSE?
Chinese data including one study of 45,000 Chinese patients with COVID-19 shows:
83-98% have fever
76-82% have dry cough
11-44% have fatigue or muscle ache
81% were mild
14% were severe and 5% were critical.
PLEASE REMEMBER THAT IF YOU DO CONTRACT COVID-19, EIGHT OUT OF TEN PEOPLE WILL ONLY HAVE A MORE MILD FLU-LIKE ILLNESS. (Flu can still feel terrible).
So self-isolation at home for any cold/flu at the moment is the most sensible approach to take. If it is COVID-19, the odds are that it will affect you mildly and the most useful action you can take is not spreading it to others.
It is very important that you take action immediately however, if your mild flu or cold becomes more severe. Any sign of your lungs being affected such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain, particularly with fever, requires an urgent visit to RDH ED, no matter what time of day or night.
You cannot be tested for COVID-19 unless you fulfil the strict criteria for testing. See below.
If you fulfil the criteria and are mildly unwell, you need to first book a COVID-19 test by calling CDC on 89228044 or 1800 008 002. If you are very unwell, call the hotline and proceed immediately to RDH ED.
CRITERIA FOR TESTING FOR COVID-19:
You have returned from overseas or interstate in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever (above 38 degrees).
You have been in close contact with a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever.
You are a healthcare worker with direct patient contact or frontline worker (police, emergency services, correctional officers, educators and childcare workers) and you have a respiratory illness OR a fever.
You have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause.
Close contact with a positive case = more than 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting with a positive case from any time 24 hours before they show symptoms onwards; OR more than 2 hours in a closed space together, from 24 hours before they show symptoms onwards. Living in the same household would fulfil the definition of close contact and would require testing. On airplanes, only the people in the two rows around the positive case need to be tested.
89 228 044 (8am-4.21pm): to arrange testing in Darwin.
They ONLY want calls about symptoms which fulfil testing criteria.
1800 008 002: NT-wide COVID-19 phone line.
1800 020 080: The national COVID-19 hotline for general advice.
Perhaps the silver lining at this stressful time is kindness coming out.
Check out “The Kindness Pandemic” Facebook group, with over 400,000 members sharing positive stories about hope and kindness occurring all over the world. A little bit of kindness goes a long way at this very challenging time; and remember, we are here to do our best for you.
COVID-19 Current Situation and Case Numbers (Australian Government Department of Health): detailed graphs, charts and up-to-date Australian data.
“Home Schooling due to Virus and School Closures in Australia” (Facebook group): resources and ideas for families at home.