College is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential impact on Fellows, trainees, patients and community.
This information is current as of March 31 2020.
The situation is evolving rapidly and the information posted here will continue to be updated as developments occur.
Fellows and trainees should always refer to Federal and State/Territory government advice.
Postponement of Adelaide 2020 ASM until April 2021
The May 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting has been postponed. The meeting will now be held in April 2021 at Adelaide Convention Centre.
More information about all other arrangements affected by this decision will issue in due course.
College site visits, courses and meetings
College advises that from March to the end of May, all site visits, courses involving practicals where learners must gather, and all College-hosted face to face meetings will be cancelled or rescheduled.
College will undertake to devise electronic solutions where meetings must proceed.
With social distancing measures in place, Hospital Heads of Departments should liaise with their Faculty regarding the holding of technology-enabled planned clinical meetings.
Decisions affecting June onward will be made later and advised closer to the time.
Applications for the 2021 Training Program
At this stage applications for the 2021 Training Program will proceed as planned. Applications will close on Monday 6 April 2020. Applicants who are successful to the interview round will be notified in early July. Interviews, at this stage, will be held in Sydney accross 22-23 August 2020. College will be exploring ways to undertake interviews if they cannot be held in person.
Trainees are being provided with regular communications from Dr Adriene Lee, Dean of Education and the College. Information includes:
- Support mechanisms in place
- The impact COVID-19 has had and will continue to have on the Training Program
- ASM or equivalent attendance requirements
- Presentation requirements
- Fellowship examination.
This information is subject to change. Please continue to visit this dedicated website page and the ‘All Trainees’ CONNECT group (‘COVID update’ thread).
The Federal AMA Council of Doctors in Training (CDT) has developed an information sheet on its advocacy priorities to support doctors in training as the health system responds to the COVID-19 virus.
The Department of Health is consulting with all colleges to evaluate the impact of this situation on training programs. View correspondence which outlines areas of consultation.
Updates from the Prime Minister and the health minister
On March 31, the Health Minister announced:
- A new partnership between the Australian Government and the private hospital sector to increase service capacity
- New temporary measures to improve access to PBS-listed medicines
On March 29, the National Cabinet (the Prime Minister, state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers) announced additional measures to combat spread of COVID-19, including $1.1 billion to support more mental health, Medicare and domestic violence services.
From March 25, the following measures were introduced which have a direct impact on the medical profession:
- Expansion of coronavirus testing criteria to include:
- testing all health workers with fever or acute respiratory infection
- hospitalised patients with fever and acute respiratory symptoms of unknown cause, at the discretion of the treating clinician.
- The full list of current coronavirus testing criteria can be viewed at the COVID-19 National Guidelines for Public Health Units.
- Temporary suspension of all semi-urgent elective surgery
- States and territories are to suspend all non-urgent elective surgery.
- The deadline for the suspension of semi urgent Category 2 and 3 elective surgeries at private hospitals is 1 April 2020.
Additional social distancing measures in relation to non-essential gatherings and services, and self-isolation for individuals are now in force. Social distancing is defined as:
- Avoiding contact with others (staying more than 1.5 metres from people)
- 1 person per 4 square metre rule in all shops and businesses remaining open
As of March 30, further measures including limiting both indoor and outdoor gatherings to two persons only excluding family members, will be in force.
Australian Department of Health resources
- The Department of Health’s COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questionsclearly outlines what to do if symptoms develop and current eligibility criteria for COVID-19 testing.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Alert
This alert is updated every day with the latest medical advice and official reports.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the health and aged care sector
A webpage providing up-to-date advice for the health and aged care sector, including Public Health Unit guidelines and When you can and cannot work.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources
This library provides up to date resources and information including a guide “For health professionals, including pathology providers and healthcare managers”.
- Interim advice on non-inpatient care of persons with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus disease (COVID19), including use of personal protective equipment (PPE) provides:
- General guidance on management and care of suspect and confirmed cases, symptomatic and asymptomatic
- Standard and transmission-based precautions
- Specimen collection.
- Department of Health COVID-19 Infection Control Training. A 30-minute online training module for health care workers in all settings.
- Interim advice on non-inpatient care of persons with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus disease (COVID19), including use of personal protective equipment (PPE) provides:
MBS Telehealth items for COVID-19
As of March 30, the new MBS Telehealth items (videoconferencing and phone) are available to all Australians.
The items have become general in nature and have no relation to diagnosing, treating or suspecting COVID-19.
All services provided must be bulk billed. The services will be available until 30 September 2020.
- 104 equivalent = 91822 (video) or 91832 (phone)
- 105 equivalent = 91823 (video) or 91833 (phone)
These changes represent the fourth stage of a series of primary care measures. Further changes will be introduced during the week that will allow GPs and other providers to apply their usual billing practices to telehealth consultations, while concessional and vulnerable patients will continue to receive services at no cost. The Government will continue to work on a further expansion of non-GP specialist telehealth under stage 5 in collaboration with the profession.
The existing telehealth videoconferencing MBS Item 99 can also be used for eligible patients, based primarily on their location i.e. in a telehealth eligible area OR in residential care OR is a patient at an Aboriginal Medical Service or ACCHO. Patient eligibility can be found on MBS Online.
Video consults can also be conducted privately for patients that are not eligible under Item 99. Note there is no patient Medicare rebate.
ACD Teledermatology Guidelines have been accepted for publication in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology and will be publicly available shortly.
Temporary changes to Locum Tenans
On March 30, College was informed that the Department of Health will extend the locum tenens period from two weeks to twelve weeks. This extension is a temporary change to support the COVID-19 response, reducing the number of Medicare provider number applications and allowing faster processing of applications for health professionals who must have a Medicare provider number for each practice.
Please contact the College for more information.
Therapeutic Good’s Administration
The TGA is providing active support for monitoring a number of issues relating to therapeutic goods including medicines and medical devices supply.
- New restrictions on prescribing hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Information on medicines and medical devices
- COVID-19 advice on surgical masks and gowns
Updates from State and Territory Governments
The impact of COVID-19 on Fellows’ private practices has been swift and significant. College is of the view that Fellows are best placed to make individual decisions regarding how and where they choose to practice in these current circumstances.
Several different practice models have emerged in recent weeks, ranging from temporary practice closures, to only telehealth consults, to strict triaging of patients whereby only urgent cases receive face to face consults. We strongly encourage Fellows to communicate with each other and share solutions, both locally and nationally via College.
The pressure on Fellows in both the private and public setting is appreciated. We are working with our College COVID-19 Taskforce to ensure that sensible and appropriate advice is delivered to Fellows and patients in a timely fashion.
Fellows are urged to keep abreast of government advice and apply this practically.
Basic protective measures
- External signage and messaging
- Display COVID-19 awareness information. The Department of Health has a range of campaign resources and signage options for use in your practice.
- Display signage on where to seek help if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms in your local area. Visit your state or territory health department website (listed below) for more information on fever clinics and other services assessing symptomatic patients.
- Contact your patients via phone/SMS requesting that they are not to enter the premises if they are at risk (they have recently travelled overseas, are experiencing flu-like symptoms and/or have had significant contact with a known or suspected case).
- At premises
- If possible, undertake a non-contact temperature check prior to patients’ entering
- Ensure all staff engage in non-touch greetings in line with social distancing measures
- Ensure all staff undertake regular hand-washing
- Limit the number of patients in your waiting room to ensure social distancing measures are in place. Encourage patients to wait in other areas (their car for example) until their appointment time. Space out the chairs in waiting room to increase patient separation
- Take precautions to ensure infection control, including wiping down practice doorknobs, reception bench, consulting benches, couches, chairs and UV & surgical equipment.
- Evidence suggests that coronaviruses are efficiently inactivated by surface disinfection procedures with 62–71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute. Other biocidal agents such as 0.05–0.2% benzalkonium chloride or 0.02% chlorhexidine digluconate are less effective. (Kampf G et al. J Hosp Infect. 2020 March. 104 (3), 246 251)
- Place the consulting chair more than 1.5 metres away to ensure patient separation.
- View the Department of Health’s ‘Information for healthcare and residential care workers’ for guidance on communicating with your staff and cleaning precautions
- Personal Protective Equipment
- There is limited evidence for the use of facemasks but they may reduce the chance of droplet spread. Note that PPE is in short supply. Use sensibly and as needed.
- When considering the need for PPE for you or your staff, note the Department of Health’s definition of ‘close contact’:
- greater than 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed case in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case, or
- sharing of a closed space with a confirmed case for a prolonged period (e.g. more than 2 hours) in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case.
- View the Department of Health’s Safe Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Interim advice on non-inpatient care of persons with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus disease (COVID19), including use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Identify your at-risk patients. Telehealth consultations with eligible patients can be bulk-billed using the temporary MBS COVID-19 telehealth items at MBS Online.
- Postpone non-urgent consultations and where feasible and clinically appropriate, conduct consultations via telehealth to minimise patient flow and potential exposure .
- Discuss with all patients the importance of practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and contact avoidance.
- For face to face attendances, ask all patients to wash hands or use hand sanitiser upon entering the practice.
- Discuss with patients any relevant risk factors for serious infection and practical measures they can take to minimise their individual exposure risk to COVID-19, including strict adherence to social distancing measures.
- Ensure vaccinations are current (esp. flu / DPT / pneumococcal)
Patients taking immunosuppressive agents or biologics
- There is at present no specific information on immunotherapies and COVID-19 risk or infection severity, noting that the generic advice is that risk of severe disease is higher if immunosuppressed.
- Use good clinical judgement to advise ongoing treatment options with immunocompromised patients. Consider:
- Patient choice to continue or cease treatment
- Cessation and likelihood of flare
- Are there viable non-immunosuppressive alternatives, especially if COVID-19 epidemic is prolonged
- long acting vs short acting treatments
- Monitor pharmaceutical company updates in relation to specific therapies.
- College has released two factsheets:
- The American Academy of Dermatology has released Guidance on the use of biologic agents during COVID-19 outbreak
- The Australasian Journal of Dermatology has published interim advice regarding COVID‐19 and use of immunomodulators in patients with severe dermatological diseases. A more detailed consensus statement is being developed.
The most current and comprehensive source of information about the virus and containment on Covid-19 is on the Department of Health’s website www.health.gov.au.
As a part of the increased services by the Australian Government to the pandemic Healthdirect Australia is delivering the new National Coronavirus Helpline (1800 020 080), a dedicated service, scaled to meet the volume of calls and assess symptomatic callers.
Visit Healthdirect for consumer-friendly information online
- Go to healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus to find the information you need and relieve the demand on helplines. The website is regularly updated from government sources to provide timely and accurate consumer-friendly advice and information.
- The Healthdirect Symptom Checker online self-guided tool to identify people experiencing COVID-19-specific symptoms and provide advice on what they should do next, such as calling ahead before a visit to a GP or emergency department.
- The healthdirect app includes all of the above in one place.
Am I at risk?
In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are those who have:
- recently been in a high risk country or region – see health.gov.au for the latest advice
- been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Based on what we know about coronaviruses, those most at risk of serious infection are:
- people with compromised immune systems (such as people who have cancer)
- elderly people
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as they have higher rates of chronic illness)
- people with chronic medical conditions
- people in group residential settings
- people in detention facilities.
To help protect people most at risk, the Government have put in place social distancing measures and are encouraging good hygiene such as regular handwashing. See www.health.gov.au.
What does coronavirus (COVID-19) mean for people with skin/dermatological conditions?
- Information patients receiving immunosuppressants
- Information for patients receiving biologics
- Information for people with eczema
There are a number of patient support groups for people with dermatological conditions who can provide further information and support. A list of these is available here.
I am a dermatology patient – how will this affect my ongoing care?
The COVID-19 pandemic is a new and evolving situation, and like everyone, dermatologists are having to adapt their models of care rapidly in an effort to minimise the risks of infection to their patients and staff.
Why has my appointment been delayed?
To minimise community spread, dermatologists have been advised to postpone any non-urgent consultations to minimise the number of people coming through their consulting and waiting rooms.
Some dermatologists may have chosen to close their clinic, particularly those identified at high risk of a serious infection should they contract COVID-19 or in quarantine themselves.
Where feasible and clinically appropriate, your dermatologist may offer to conduct consultations by video or phone. There may be a slight delay while they put in place the appropriate systems and safeguards. In some cases, it may not be possible to offer this service.
I’ve been offered a video or phone consultation. How does it work and how do I get the most out of it?
As part of the health system response to the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be offered a consultation with your dermatologist or clinical nurse by phone or video – known as telehealth – instead of face to face. This is an important step to protecting your health and that of your health care team while enabling you to continue to receive medical care and advice from the comfort and safety of your own home.
For more information on what to expect see:
Why haven’t I been offered the option of video or phone consultation?
It is important to note that telehealth may not be appropriate for the management of all dermatological conditions and a face-to-face consultation may still be needed. Your dermatologist will discuss this with you and whether a face-to-face consultation needs to take place or can be postponed to a later date.
If you do need to attend for a face-to-face consultation, your clinic or practice will advise what you will need to do and what precautions they are putting in place to minimise any risk of infection.
Being medicinewise during COVID-19
NPS MedicineWise’s Being medicinewise during coronavirus provides information on using your regular medicines during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
For the latest updates
The most current and comprehensive source of information about the virus and containment on Covid-19 is on the Department of Health’s website.
For information in languages other than English
- The Department of Health and healthdirect websites have a number of translated resources.
- SBS has also launched a webpage with news and information about coronavirus (COVID-19) in 63 languages https://www.sbs.com.au/language/coronavirus.
To keep up to date with information and resources being released by the College go to
- ACD website: https://www.dermcoll.edu.au/covid19updates/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/australasiancollegeofdermatologists/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/DermatologyACD
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/acderm/
Please visit the below links for further relevant information.