ACT Government

NEW Chief Health Officer ALERT (30 June 2020)

Public health advice for high-risk settings and health professionals regarding increasing COVID-19 cases in Melbourne

• Covid-19 cases in Melbourne have increased significantly as a result of large outbreaks and community transmission, with a number of postcodes identified as hotspots.
• People who have been to a Melbourne hotspot, including ACT residents, should not visit or work in a high-risk setting for 14 days after leaving the hotspot.
• GPs and other community health practitioners who have
travelled to Melbourne hotspots should remain particularly vigilant for early symptoms, and immediately exclude themselves from work and get tested for COVID-19 if they develop symptoms.

For more information on this alert and others, visit the Chief Health Officer’s alerts page.  

UPDATED Changes to Restrictions (19 June 2020)

The Government has introduced dates and further details for easing of restrictions, please find that information here.

The ACT Government is expanding its COVID-19 testing criteria for two weeks to get a better view of the situation in the ACT community. Expanded testing begins on Friday 24 April.

https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/news-articles/covid-19-testing-criteria-expanded-for-two-weeks


ACT Health

Canberra Health Services

UPDATED Changes to Health Services in the ACT from June 4. See the changes here.

COVID-19 Testing Facilities 

There are now additional locations for testing in the ACT. The Weston Creek Walk-in Clinic, the Drive through clinic at EPIC and the Winnunga Nimmityjah Respiratory Clinic remain in operation without the need for  an appointment, however new Respiratory Assessment Clinics in Crace and Tuggeranong are also now offering testing by appointment. Find out more here.

Canberra Health Services: Elective surgery changes

On 21 April, National Cabinet agreed to a “gradual restart” of some elective surgery after the Anzac Day weekend. Canberra Health Services are currently formulating a plan with its surgical division to safely recommence surgeries again as required. More details will be available on this soon.

What is telehealth and is it right for you?

A guide for consumers and patients. Download here.


Helping you get your medicine if you are confined to your home

This information sheet explains how Australians can get medical services and prescriptions if they are unable to leave home. Download here.


Telehealth billing changes

The Health Department has made important changes to payment arrangements for telehealth services announced last week. Initially all telehealth services were bulk billed. This has been changed so that only services to Commonwealth concession card holders, children under 16 and COVID-19 vulnerable patients must be bulk-billed. Health providers may charge other telehealth patients more. See the fact sheet for consumers, on the latest changes.


New COVID-19 helpline ACT

New COVID-19 Helpline – 02 6207 7244
8am – 8pm daily
ACT Government has created a new helpline and website to inform and assist the ACT community through the challenges of COVID-19. The helpline can be contacted on 02 6207 7244 between 8am and 8pm daily, and the website can be accessed any time: covid19.act.gov.au
The COVID-19 Helpline will help the community to stay informed and access services such as:
• COVID-19 health advice and referrals
• Requests for advice and information about the business and community stimulus packages provided by the ACT Government
• Requests for assistance by vulnerable and isolated persons, including those self-isolating or in quarantine
• Community reports of non-compliance with health directions by individuals, businesses and organisations for referral to the relevant authorities
• Referrals to the ACT Health Protection Services, ACT Policing and Access Canberra Fair Trading
• Answer general COVID-19 related enquiries.


The ACT Government COVID-19 website can be translated into 107 languages via Google Translate. Insert the URL https://www.covid19.act.gov.au in the translation box, choose the language, and click ‘Translate’. Then click the link in the translation box to open the translated site.


Health Service Change: Visitor Access

To help slow the spread of COVID-19 and to keep patients, babies and staff safe, Canberra Health Services (CHS) will be limiting the number of visitors to all sites, including the Canberra Hospital.

Further access controls will be enacted at CHS sites.

Entrance points to Canberra Hospital will be reduced. These will be Canberra Hospital (Building 2) main entry, Centenary Hospital for Women and Children (Building 11) main entry and the Level 1 carpark entrance behind the Canberra Region Cancer Centre

COVID-19 screening questions will be asked of visitors prior to permitting entry

Access to the Opioid Treatment Service will not change, however the same screening questions will be asked

Visitors will be encouraged to only access the building that they need to visit

Community Health Centres (excluding Walk-in Centres) will operate with entry doors locked and access provided by a staff member who is present

University of Canberra Hospital and Dhulwa Mental Health Unit entry doors are locked, and access is provided by a Security Officer

Visitor access is limited to one person per patient on site per day. They are also discouraging families from bringing children on site, if possible

Visitors that are unwell, have recently travelled overseas or on a cruise ship, are in self-isolation or have been in contact with someone with or suspected of having COVID-19 should not visit CHS facilities, including Centenary Hospital, or accompany patients to community-based appointments.

Further changes to Public Health services

We are implementing a number of changes to maternity, paediatric and community-based services.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, one person will be allowed to be the support person in labour. This person will remain the designated visitor for the duration of the woman’s stay in hospital, in line with previously announced visitor restrictions.

Routine antenatal appointments will continue, but as the situation is evolving this may need to change and any impacted patients will be contacted. Antenatal classes and other group sessions will be provided in an online format.

An early pregnancy and parenting support phone line has been established to support women with early pregnancy, maternal and child health, breastfeeding and emotional wellbeing concerns. You can call 5124 1775 from Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm. Please leave a voicemail with your name, best contact number and reason for your call and a health professional will call you back within one business day.

For the latest information, please read the COVID-19 advice for pregnant women fact sheet.

These services are essential. We are not aiming to reduce these services, rather, we’re finding new ways to deliver them to maintain social distancing and keep everyone safe.

These changes are in addition to the reduction in non-urgent and non-essential outpatient and community activity, and the suspension of all elective surgery other than category 1 and urgent category 2, announced earlier this week. 

The Acute Surgical Unit has moved

The Acute Surgical Unit (Ward 8B) moved yesterday (Thursday, 26 March) to Ward 4A.

Ward 4A is located on Level 4 of Building 1 at Canberra Hospital.

Visitor restrictions

As you are aware, we have already tightened visitor access to our health facilities. We’re making these changes to ensure that people who don’t need to be on site aren’t on site. This will help protect our patients and staff.

I ask you to actively communicate the message of one visitor per patient allowed on each site per day.

Moreover, visitors must not enter if they:

  • Are unwell with a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath
  • Have been overseas or on a cruise ship in the last 14 days
  • Have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 14 days.

Visitors will be asked to visit a hand hygiene station upon entry and encouraged to contact their loved ones by calling them directly, rather than visiting the hospital.

We are now also asking that wherever possible visitors do not bring children with them when they visit our health facilities.

We’re looking at special circumstances such as visitors for patients at end of life. We’ll continue to keep you up to date with advice and guidance.

Public health service changes in response to COVID-19

Canberra Health Services are reducing all non-urgent and non-essential non-admitted activity. This will include community-based services, medical outpatients, procedures, and treatments.

From Thursday, 26 March appointments that clinicians deem to be non-essential will be either cancelled or postponed. Essential appointments will be converted to virtual appointments where possible. This will include telephone or video consultations.

CHS is contacting patients whose appointments or treatments are affected. No patient will lose their spot on the wait list as a result of these actions.

If consumers determine that they no longer need the service their referral will be cancelled. However, should it need to be reinstated it will be done so at the original date.

If consumers wish to cancel their appointment, please call Central Health Intake (5124 9977) or use the on-line cancellation form at https://bit.ly/3abpSSl.

GPs are asked to only refer urgent patients at this time.


Parentline

We are here to help parents and carers through the current health events. We offer FREE phone, Zoom/Skype and limited Face-to-Face services. Call us for a free confidential chat on 6287 3833. Sometimes we may be taking other calls, so please don’t hesitate to leave a message on our answering machine.  We will endeavour to return your call as soon as possible.


Services at Relationships Australia Canberra & Region – COVID19 response

Relationships Australia Canberra & Region are moving their services from face to face delivery to online and telephone service modes. This includes counselling and mediation appointments, case work and outreach services, wherever feasible. They have moved to an increased social media presence and will continue to use these mediums to share information with clients and the wider community.

They will be contacting clients with existing bookings to talk about how this can be arranged. Any requests for new services will be advised of these changes.

They will also be concentrating on the emerging needs of clients during the pandemic, including higher rates of family violence, suicidality, stress and anxiety, and additional pressure on family relationships due to loss of employment and confinement. You can continue to contact them for help and support on 1300 364 277 or email racroffice@racr.org.au. See their website at www.racr.org.au.


headspace Canberra – COVID 19 Update:

Due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) headspace Canberra is transitioning to phone services. During this time their office will be operating through virtual services, which will mean they will still be offering young people and their families support via phone services.

APPOINTMENTS: Remain the same but will be via phone services. They will be in contact with all young people with existing appointments booked.

GROUPS: All headspace Canberra groups have been suspended from meeting face to face. They will be working on how we can offer our groups and programs remotely and will be communicating with young people on our reminder lists as to how we will be doing that.

Social Media: Check out headspace Canberra on Facebook and Instagram and stay connected.

If Young People are in Crisis: Please note that headspace Canberra is NOT a crisis service. If you are in need of emergency services, please contact:

Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Mental Health Hotline 1800 011 511

Emergency Services, dial 000 or present to the Emergency Department.

To access headspace Canberra services during business hours please phone 51099700 or email hs.canberra@marathonhealth.com.au


Perinatal Wellbeing Centre services update:

During this time Perinatal Wellbeing Centre will continue to support clients and the community via telehealth as the face-to-face meetings and playgroups have been cancelled. Additionally, they are exploring other web-based possibilities and have plans to increase their social media presence to share information with the wider community. From March 26th, they are hosting Facebook live streams at approximately 2 pm every Monday and Thursday in an effort to remain connected.

Please contact them on 02 6288 1936 or support@pernatalwellbeing.org.au or visit their website for further resources.


SHFPACT (Sexual Health & Family Planning ACT) service update:

Phone consultations available at 02 6247 3077.

Sexual health services:

  • STI (sexually transmissible infection) screening, when you do not have any symptoms
  • Initial PrEP consultation (new clients)
  • Follow up PrEP (continuing clients)

Menopause Centre Canberra:

  • Initial menopause consultations for new clients
  • Follow up menopause for continuing clients

Contraception and reproductive health services:

  • Repeat contraceptive pill prescriptions for existing clients

For other health services and information, please contact SHFPACT by email shfpact@shfpact.org.au (please include your phone number) or phone 62473077. Their staff will assist you to make an appointment with their doctors/nurses, or refer you to other clinicians as appropriate. Online bookings with specific doctors are available here.

SHFPACT look forward to continuing to assist with your sexual and reproductive health needs.


Domestic Violence Crisis Service

DVCS’ 24/7 crisis intervention line continues to operate, as do all other programs, save for support groups.  On the advice of ACT Health, we have suspended our support group program.

If you are being subjected to violence or controlling behaviours within your relationship, or not even sure what is happening, I encourage you to contact our team via phone or via our website.

If you are worried about a friend or family member, please I encourage you to stay in touch with them.  Call them on the phone or use one of the hundreds of other messaging and emailing facilities available to make contact with them, the important thing is to stay in contact.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service has started a new SMS line so that people who cannot call and do not have internet access can now get in contact with them. Please pass on this number to anyone you know who may need it – 0421 268 492. You can also email crisis@dvcs.org.au or web chat at dvcs.org,au.

For 24/7 help, please contact DVCS on 62 800 900 or via dvcs.org.au.


Australian Breastfeeding Association Canberra Group

The Australian Breastfeeding Association Canberra group has suspended all face-to-face activities, including discussion sessions, antenatal breastfeeding education classes and playgroups. We are providing regular virtual Q&A sessions using Zoom, hosted by a local breastfeeding counsellor or community educator. The list of sessions is available on our webpage or our Facebook page .

The National Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 686 268 (freecall) is available for individual breastfeeding counselling support 7 days a week.

Antenatal breastfeeding education sessions will be running from mid-April. The sessions will be delivered online, facilitated by breastfeeding counsellors and community educators. For more information on how to register, please contact actnswoffice@breastfeeding.asn.au.

Regularly updated information about breastfeeding and Covid-19 can be found here.


Australian Energy Regulator – Statement of Expectation

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on the Australian community. Many people are or will be affected by dramatic changes to their lives, businesses, income and working arrangements, and those of their friends, families and communities. Energy use and the ability to pay their bills may in turn be affected. Read the full statement here.

AER encourages you to stay informed about important AER developments by:
Subscribing to AER updates and media release; and following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.
If you have an enquiry, please contact:
Call us on 1300 585 165; or email us at AERInquiry@aer.gov.au.

ActewAGL Staying Connected program

The ActewAGL Staying Connected program is fully operational and we are waiting to hear from customers who have been affected by COVID-19.

We can provide more information about the recent ACT Government Additional Concession Payment of $200 for residential customers, and $750 for small businesses.

Whilst we are operating a callback roster, we are fully operational and will remain that way – even if a full scale shutdown is enacted by the federal or state government.

If you or your clients require assistance as a result of the income loss, business hardship, reduced hours, or higher energy use – please contact us by the methods below:

*         Contact via email StayingConnected@actewagl.com.au

*         Apply online at https://forms.actewagl.com.au/forms/staying-connected-form.aspx

*         Calls to 1300 138 574 will result in a voicemail being forwarded to us. We are endeavouring to respond to call-backs as soon as possible, in many cases immediately.

We are happy to assist with advice, flexible payment arrangements, and assistance in managing utility expenses in periods of low or no income.

We are actively open to hearing from any customer who has a concern about paying their bills during this period.

We have extended hardship support to small businesses, and will assess every contact individually.


Australian Banking Association

Australian banks have hardship teams ready to help. If you’re dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, or drought, bushfire or flood, there are practical ways your bank can help. The type of assistance will depend on individual circumstances.

Assistance can  include:

  • A deferral of scheduled loan repayments
  • Waiving fees and charges
  • Interest free periods or no interest rate increases
  • Debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable.

Please find a summary of the 21 banks with links and contact info here.


Renting and Coronavirus

What you need to know: Visit the Tenants Union site for detailed information and relevant links.


Canberra Relief Network

The economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 Pandemic means that many people, including those who have never interacted with the social welfare system, will find themselves in need.  The Canberra Relief Network is the ACT Government’s response to the sudden and overwhelming demand for food and non-perishable household essentials item that is occurring and is expected to increase as a direct result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

UnitingCare Kippax has been selected by the ACT Government to lead the Canberra Relief Network. It is working closely with a range of wholesale suppliers to ensure that there is a share available to those who do not have the means to purchase it themselves.

Eligibility

The aim of CRN is to support individuals who are not able to purchase items in the supermarket due to vulnerability. While many members of the community may feel insecure during this time, it is essential to restrict eligibility to this service to those who absolutely have no other choice. This includes:

  • Pre-existing clients of food pantries
  • Current clients of community services organisations
  • Community members that are identified as vulnerable through government support
  • People escaping family violence
  • Refugees and migrants
  • Those directly affected by the pandemic: casual employees experiencing hardship, those in the gig economy and those that are isolated or incapacitated due to illness and require direct assistance.

If you think you are eligible, contact the call centre on 1800 431 133 or 02 5104 9599. Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 2.30pm.


VICTIM SUPPORT ACT – COVID-19 SERVICE UPDATE

Victim Support ACT is taking steps to minimise risks to community members who access their services, and to their staff.  Victim Support remains open and operational, however, they have closed their office to the public and are using technology to support our clients remotely. Like many other agencies, they are operating at partially reduced capacity in the changing environment. However, they are intensively triaging all new and existing matters to ensure they are working with clients to identify and assess risk, and prioritising those experiencing immediate risks to safety and well-being.

Ongoing service provision:

Counselling and other therapeutic supports – Victim Support continues to provide clients with information, case coordination, safety planning and access to brokered counselling. They are currently doing this work primarily by phone and email, and at present the majority of counsellors and other providers continue to provide direct support to clients, mostly via phone and video-link.

Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme – The FAS scheme remains operational as they continue to receive and assess applications, but they are triaging turnaround on urgent matters, including those relating to immediate needs such as costs associated with relocation for safety reasons and measures for personal security.

Court Support – Victim Support has made the difficult decision to suspend their volunteer court support program at this time, but hope the impact of this decision may be limited by the Court’s decision to defer many final hearings, and to move a number of its lists and hearings to phone and audio-visual link appearances.

Intermediaries – The Intermediary Program continues to operate providing intermediaries to police and courts to assist vulnerable witnesses to communicate their evidence in criminal matters.


Mental Health & Wellbeing Education & Training Providers ACT (MIEACT)

MIEACT is very excited to launch our new interactive digital Mental Health Program for 10 to 14 year olds.
A perfect fit for current online classroom delivery to address the mental health concerns of our young people right now.
FREE for all schools and students across Canberra.

Give it a go at https://mieact.org.au/portal/
You can download the Teacher and Caregiver resource here https://mieact.org.au/workshops/mental-health-and-me/


Dental services

The Australian Dental Association has advised that dentists can still treat people who:

  • Have acute dental pain
  • Have damaged their front teeth badly (e.g. due to trauma)
  • Have soft tissue pathology (e.g. ulcers)
  • Have dental issues that may comprise their whole health (due to illness)
  • Are at risk of rapid progression of dental disease due to socioeconomic or cultural factors, or who
  • Are referred by a medical practitioner for medically necessary dental care

More restrictions may come into place in the future. If you need urgent dental care you should contact your dentist as you usually would to discuss your needs.


Palliative Care ACT services in the COVID Environment

With COVID-19 travel and contact restrictions, people at the end of their lives are increasingly unable to access the support they need. With isolation presenting as a critical issue for those who are palliative, the team at Palliative Care ACT has progressed the following services that may assist during this time.

Isolation Relief

People at the end of their lives often have challenges communicating with loved ones who are interstate, or overseas. Palliative Care ACT has technology that volunteers can take to clients to help them connect with friends and family through tele or video conferencing.

Palliative support call out service

No one should die alone. Palliative Care ACT volunteers are trained in supporting someone at the end of their life. To assist those who are unable to have their friends and family with them at the end of life, health professionals can contact Palliative Care ACT to arrange for a volunteer to be with them during their last hours to ensure they are not alone.

Palliative Care Tele-Help

The pandemic has increased public discussion about death and dying. Palliative Care ACT can provide information on a range of Canberra-based palliative care support options, advance care planning, and grief and bereavement services. Anyone can call 6255 5771 to speak to an experienced staff member. During the pandemic this service will be available from 8am to 8pm.

Moments in Time

Palliative Care ACT’s life stories program has shown that reflecting on a person’s life can be therapeutic and fulfilling. The Moments in Time program has been developed for when  time is limited. A trained volunteer talks with a client about a precious memory and the story is recorded. The recording is then prepared for the client to share with family and friends.

Palliative Care ACT volunteers and staff are registered to work with vulnerable people, are trained in infection control and have undertaken COVID-19 specific training.

These services are provided at no cost to the client or their family.

For further details on these initiatives please call our office on 6255 5771 or email office@pallcareact.org.au


News articles of interest:

If you require assistance with food, please visit the Foodbank NSWACT page on Facebook for more details .

Canberra Facebook group offers covid-19 aid to the vulnerable