Dear Patients,

As you are all aware, we are now in our second lockdown. Whilst this is an unwanted situation, it is vitally important to ensure we reduce infection rates and protect our community.

In the last 2-3 weeks we have detected multiple cases of COVID-19 through the Port Melbourne Respiratory Clinic, including some who reside in the Port Phillip local government area. These people are now isolating and the Department of Health has commenced their contact tracing. So, whilst we are still not considered a hotspot local government area, it is important that we all play our role in reducing transmission. It is also worth noting that community transmission is high and the source of origin is unknown in a large number of the positive cases, meaning we must all be careful when we go out and about.

Some key messages from us to you:

  • If you are a confirmed case of COVID-19 and wish to see a doctor YOU MUST BOOK A TELEHEALTH APPOINTMENT IN THE FIRST INSTANCE. DURING THIS APPOINTMENT THE DOCTOR CAN ADVISE ON LOGISTICS OF REVIEW
  • Wear a mask in public
  • DO NOT WALK INTO THE CLINIC RECEPTION AREA IF YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN/PARTNER WITH YOU HAVE ANY RESPIRATORY SYMPTOMS (cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever, loss of sense of smell or taste or shortness of breath) -please call for advice. We will be able to see you but cannot put our other patients or staff at risk
  • Please follow the stay at home orders and social distancing measures
  • Port Melbourne Medical will remain open 7 days per week
  • Melbourne Pathology will also remain open 7 days per week
  • There are strict infection control protocols at the clinic. These were instituted strictly initially and even more so as soon as restrictions were relaxed, as we were concerned this may result in a second wave. These protocols include not walking into the practice before you have been screened, and all patients will sanitise their hands and wear a mask
  • We will NOT turn anyone away, however for the safety of everyone, we ask that all symptoms, even if they are mild, are disclosed. We just have to know this information so we can ensure that you do not put anybody at risk.  Please reschedule non-urgent appointments such as cervical screening if you are unwell

Why are we being so vigilant?

In the UK, it was clear that many cases of COVID-19 were being acquired in the GP and other medical waiting rooms. This is why our waiting room has essentially been closed since March.  What we also know from the medical media and our own experience detecting COVID-19 in the Respiratory Clinic, is that some people with COVID-19 have NO SYMPTOMS or VERY MILD symptoms. So even if you only have a sniffle, or it feels like your typical winter cold/sinus infection, we must be on high alert.

PORT MELBOURNE RESPIRATORY CLINIC
Since the end of April, this clinic has been assessing and swabbing patients with infectious symptoms. This week we committed to providing this service for another 3 months, to continue our part of the health response to fighting COVID-19. We actively encourage our patients and any Melbournians to book in and be swabbed if they have any of the following symptoms, even if mild. This is funded by the Federal Government and is FREE for anyone with symptoms.

 

Eligibility Criteria for FREE COVID-19 Testing

  • cough
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • fever or chills (without other clear source of infection)
  • shortness of breath
  • new loss of sense of taste or smell.

In addition, anyone who is at higher risk to their environmental exposure (close contact of a confirmed case, health or aged care workers, or returned from overseas travel in the past 14 days) should also be tested if they have new onset of other clinical symptoms associated with COVID-19:

  • headache
  • muscle ache
  • stuffy nose
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea

We have now tested thousands of locals and patients from neighbouring suburbs, with confirmed positive cases both locally and further away. Some of these people had very mild symptoms and had thankfully followed the Government advice of getting tested, even when symptoms were mild.

For those who haven’t attended the Respiratory Clinic, the following information may be of interest to you.

The clinic is staffed by Port Melbourne Medical doctors, nurses and reception staff.  Due to increasing demand, we now have some doctors who practice elsewhere doing some sessions as well. We ask all patients who book into the RC to stay in their car until the doctor calls them. You do not need to check in, you will be called at your appointment time. Occasionally doctors may have had to deal with an emergency or complicated situation and may be running 10-15 minutes late, so please be patient. If you have waited more than 15 minutes past your appointment time, you can call to make sure you are in fact booked in. Occasionally people have provided the wrong phone number or we cannot get through to their mobile.

The doctor will take a history from you over the phone and will then bring you through to the clinic, where you will sanitise your hands, then be given a mask if you do not have one. The examination required will be determined by the symptoms you are experiencing. You will then be swabbed, provided advice about isolating, how to manage your illness and what to do in the event that your symptoms change.

Results are currently taking between 2-5 days depending on the demand. Pathology will send you an SMS as soon as the results are processed. You will receive this result before we have received them. We understand this is an anxious and frustrating wait at times, but please remember this is not our fault if there is a delay, as pathology is processing thousands of results daily. Our receptionists do not deserve to be abused for things outside of their control.  Please do not call up for results until day 5 post swab, as we cannot expedite them. We do keep a list of all swabs taken and if we haven’t received them by day 4 we are actively chasing them already behind the scenes. Please also isolate between getting tested and receiving the result.

Dr Sarah Lewis recently appeared on A Current Affair discussing the Respiratory Clinic.

PRIVATE AND ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING

At Port Melbourne Medical, we have developed a process to offer swabbing for individuals and businesses who are seeking testing outside of the Government Respiratory Clinic testing criteria. Examples may include:

  • People leaving the country and who require a negative swab to enter their home country
  • Return to work “clearance” or who are starting a new job
  • Entering a hospital or having elective surgery or dental procedures
  • Caring for an elderly family member or vulnerable person
  • Required to work in confined areas such as building sites
  • Having come in to contact with a confirmed case and have been advised to get tested however you don’t have any cold or flu like symptoms (asymptomatic)
  • If you have received a letter from the Department of Health advising to get tested on day 11

Unfortunately, if you do not meet the Eligibility Criteria for FREE COVID-19 Testing as outlined above, you are not eligible for funded swabbing. At PMM, this will be conducted by one of our COVID-swabbing trained nurses and they will be in full PPE. If you have no symptoms you are not required to isolate pending results. If you would like to have your swab done privately, please book in through our website www.portmelbournemedical.com.au .

Click on the Book Online link at the top right hand corner. Scroll through and select the Asymptomatic Covid-19 practitioner and select an appointment time suitable for you. Due to the cost of PPE and the fee for the swab, this appointment will require pre-payment.

Mental Health Update

Sadly, this virus looks like it will be in the community for some time, and will have a large impact on all of us. Certainly we have seen the mental toll it has already taken on people across our community. It is hard to be isolated from people and away from your family and friends. The doctors at PMM are trained in Mental Health and are able to offer support and counselling. This is a routine and valued part of a GP’s day to day work.

The Australian Government also has a digital mental health gateway “HeadtoHealth” and connects people to phone and online mental health services. Beyond Blue has also developed The Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service -coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au or 1800 512 348. This has been created to address the growing mental health impact of the pandemic.

We encourage everyone to seek help if they need it, as well as to reach out to others around them to offer support. We can pull together in the ‘Borough, and get through this together.

Finally, we also want to acknowledge the unseen heroes of the crisis, our reception staff and managers. Without their dedication and extra effort, the practice and RC would not have operated as smoothly as it has during these high volume and challenging days. Please remember to say thanks and be understanding if things take a little longer or can’t be executed the way they were historically.

Please stay safe.

The team at PMM

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