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28 Feb 2020

COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) IS CHALLENGING THE CAPACITY OF OUR NATION

COVID-19 is challenging the capacity of our nation to respond to serious illness in a never before seen way. Despite resounding pressure and uncertainty, the medical profession is responding with resilience - a resilience that will be tested time and time again, and no doubt will be needed for some time yet.

We answer your questions about the impact of COVID-19 on your work, training, education, and wellbeing as a medical professional. We will continue to add guidance over the coming days and weeks.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone has written to every practising Doctor in Australia. Listen to what he had to say.


ON THIS PAGE


WHAT THE AMA IS DOING

For the latest information Follow the AMA on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube

AMA priorities during COVID-19

The AMA is working tirelessly to campaign for doctors on sufficient PPE provision, the importance of usual care continuing, fast track telehealth access, economic support for practices, and private hospital guarantees.

Dr Bartone has been writing to members regularly on the AMA's priorities. Read the latest from the President.

COVID-19: AMA media coverage

Read a recent selection of our most current media coverage in response to the AMA's work protecting doctors during the COVID-10 crisis.


AMA COVID-19 FACT FILES

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the AMA will publish The COVID-19 Fact Files – clinical articles from the frontline of health care, dealing with the issues at the core of keeping Australians healthy while the nation works together through the pandemic. The articles will be evidence-based and reflect the reality of life for doctors working daily to help all Australians survive and maintain their health in the time of COVID-19.

AUTHORTITLE
AMA Vice President Dr Chris ZappalaCOVID-19 TESTING AND INITIAL ASSESSMENT/CARE
AMA Vice President Dr Chris ZappalaCOVID-19 Pharmacologic Treatment
AMA Vice President Dr Chris ZappalaThe strain of SARS-COV-2
AMA Vice President Dr Chris ZappalaPredicting a worse COVID-19 outcome

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE

AMA COVIDsafe Practice Guide

The AMA has developed this guide is to assist doctors, medical practices and their staff to ensure they have a COVIDSafe environment to work in.

COVID-19: telehealth

This guidance supports doctors in any healthcare setting to conduct remote consultations during the pandemic.

COVID-19: resources for general practices

The AMA has compiled a list of resources that general practices may find useful to help manage during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

COVID-19: securing PPE

If you're having difficulty securing PPE or other consumables, first, please make sure you and your practice are safe. The health of our medical and health workforce is a key priority for the AMA. If you are a GP, please contact your PHN for supplies. If you do not have access to the correct PPE do not treat or conduct testing on patients with potential COVID-19. Contact your local public health unit for advice on where to direct patients. If the issue is not resolved, please let us know at covid19@ama.com.au. 

COVID-19: medical practice financial support

Thousands of medical practices are not immune to the economic impact of COVID-19, just like every other small business in Australia. The AMA has put together a summary of some of the financial support packages available.

COVID-19: medicine access

The Australian Government has approved a number of temporary changes to medicines regulation to ensure Australians can continue to access the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines they need, as the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds.

COVID-19: workforce issues and indemnity arrangements 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) has agreed to a series of new measures that apply to medical practitioners. These include updates to CPD, interns, IMGs and retired doctors.

COVID-19: Mental health

The COVID-19 outbreak may generate a range of impacts on the community and individual mental health and wellbeing. The AMA has put together basic information on supporting patients with their mental health.


YOUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Doctors and medical students are working under extraordinary and challenging circumstances and need to look after their health and wellbeing.

You may find strategies that worked for you previously provide the best approach for you. Whatever your circumstances, we have identified some information and ideas that can support you to cope and be your best personal and professional self.

DRS4DRS promotes the health and wellbeing of doctors and medical students across Australia. 

If you are concerned about isolation from colleagues, family and friends during this difficult time and would like to talk to a friendly colleague at your State/Territory doctors’ health service, contact DRS4DRS


GENERAL INFORMATION

  • COVID-19 novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus affecting humans.
  • Disease severity ranges from an illness akin to the common cold through to more severe illness similar to that seen with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MARS).
  • Knowledge of illness phenotypes, transmission and treatment are still evolving.
  • People of all ages can be affected.
  • Elderly people and those with prior illness (e.g. asthma, diabetes, heart disease, etc) are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill.
  • Australian Governments monitoring situation carefully and coordinating planning and resource allocation to manage greater infection rates if they occur in Australia.
  • The Commonwealth Government activated the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on 27 February 2020.

General population protection measures

  • Cleaning hands with soap or alcohol-based hand rubs.
  • Covering nose/mouth with flexed elbow or tissue when coughing/sneezing.
  • Avoid contact (especially close contact such as touching) with anyone who has fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, dyspnoea.
  • Stay home if unwell.

Epidemiology

  • 94% of deaths have occurred in people >50 years old. All had a severe, significant illness prior to death.
  • Infection doubling rate is 6-8 days, equating to approximately 10 weeks from point of undetected infection to exponential growth.
  • Mortality rate 2-3%

Transmission

  • Transmission is from person to person via droplet, mucous membranes, faecal-oral and via fomites (doorknobs, tables, cutlery etc).
  • Virus sheds in asymptomatic people (but no confirmation of transmission from asymptomatic patients in Australia, perhaps one case in North America).
  • One infected person is estimated to potentially infect 2-4 other people.
  • Incubation period 5-14 days (possibly longer).
  • Illness peaks day 9-13 (with hospitalisation requirement evident by day 5).
  • Virus survives for 48 hours on surfaces at room temperature.
  • Healthcare staff caring for affected, isolated patients and those performing procedures on suspected/infected patients e.g. intubation or swab collection, should wear appropriate personal protection equipment. Local hospitals will have information on correct procedures for their use.

Diagnosis

  • Nasopharyngeal swab for PCR testing – very sensitive test now widely available. Serological blood specimens also being routinely collected for later use.

Treatment

  • There is no treatment for COVID-19.
  • Vaccine development underway (including at the University of Queensland) but timeframe likely 12-18 months.

Suggested action by Australian doctors

  • Remain informed.
  • Vigilance for potential cases i.e. patients with typical respiratory symptoms who in the last 2 weeks have been in China, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Japan (and other areas with the sustained person to person transmission has occurred) or have known contact with someone who has travelled to these areas.
  • Upon presentation, to a health care setting of a person who is under quarantine or investigation or is a suspect case:
    • Immediately give the patient a surgical mask and ensure they put it on correctly.
    • Direct them to a single room, whether or not respiratory symptoms are present.
    • If this is the first contact with a health care provider, contact the local public health unit or state/territory communicable disease branch for advice if you are uncertain about the need for testing.
  • Promote flu vaccination in all eligible patients this year to reduce combined infections.
  • PCR testing available at no cost to the patient, in an array of public and private pathology laboratories across the country.
  • MBS funded general practitioner consultation for clearance to work if required (not mandatory after appropriate isolation and recovery).

Further information

Related document (Public): 

Published: 28 Feb 2020