Is your practice ready for winter?

Matt Woodley

31/05/2022 4:36:01 PM

A winter planning toolkit released by the RACGP aims to help practices keep patients and staff safe during the coming months.

GP administering a flu shot.
Vaccination is one of seven modules contained in a new RACGP Winter Planning Toolkit.

The past two Australian winters have been synonymous with enhanced public healthcare restrictions, hospitalisations and death, as COVID outbreaks swept across some of Australia’s major cities.
But while lockdowns are unlikely to return, COVID is now endemic in most parts of the country and influenza – which all but died out in the community after the borders shut – is also returning with a vengeance.
To help general practices prepare for the additional challenges, the RACGP has released a Winter Planning Toolkit that provides information on:

  • infection prevention and control
  • workforce protection and planning
  • processes for patient management
  • managing the risk of cross-infection
  • the health and wellbeing of staff.
RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price has encouraged practices and GPs to closely review the toolkit.
‘Winter is upon us, and we must be prepared,’ she said.
‘During the colder months, people huddle inside more in close proximity to each other, and germs spread. That includes common colds, influenza, and of course the virus that has been front of mind the last two-and a-bit years – COVID-19.
‘There is also evidence that suggests cold, dry air, like you find typically in the winter months in my home city of Melbourne, helps the spread of respiratory viruses – and this may include COVID-19.’
The toolkit is separated into seven modules, featuring information on:
  • vaccination
  • preventive measures
  • testing
  • managing patients
  • providing care for priority populations
  • staffing
  • infection prevention education.
Professor Price urged ‘even the most experienced GPs and general practice teams’ to investigate the resource and said it provides information that will be useful for practices across the country.
‘For example, it helpfully outlines possible approaches practices can take when delivering flu vaccines during the pandemic,’ she said.
‘People who are particularly vulnerable to severe effects from the flu must not be invited into unprepared clinics to receive their flu vaccine. Instead, the resource has tips on how they should be kept separate, such as dedicating clinic time and space for flu vaccinations.
‘Some practices have even used outdoor vaccination locations and practices can also think about combining forces with other practices in the local area to establish shared vaccination clinics.’
The RACGP President said ‘the last thing’ GPs want is for a patient to present to a clinic with one health condition and leave with another like flu or COVID.
‘That is why steps like local infection prevention and control procedures as well as education and training for all practice staff when they commence employment are so important,’ she said.
‘We aren’t forgetting about our warmer northern communities experiencing dry season conditions either. It is common to see an increase in infection risk due to a rise in tourism during this time.
‘This isn’t just a resource for practices in our colder areas, there is something for all clinics.’
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COVID-19 infection control influenza vaccination winter

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