The rapid transmission of the COVID-19 Omicron variant is affecting many businesses due to illness or isolation requirements.
Local general practices have raised questions about staff exposure to COVID and returning to work. Healthy North Coast has compiled the following guidance.
Managing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in general practice
Primary Care Impact offers a quality improvement activity on managing the risk of COVID-19 exposure. This activity supports practice teams to undertake education on the new COVID normal, read the latest guidelines on infection prevention and control, and conduct team debriefs on exposure management processes.
For staff with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (positive RAT or PCR test)
Patients can be released from isolation if they have had no sore throat, runny nose, cough or breathlessness for the last 24 hours of their isolation period. They do not need to await an SMS message for release as long as it is more than 7 days since their swab.
If patients continue to have these symptoms, they are advised to phone the NSW Care at Home support line (1800 960 933). In the event where a general practitioner is contacted, the current recommendation is:
- if symptoms are mild, continue with release from isolation
- if symptoms are significant, continue isolation with clinical monitoring and escalation if required; plan release from isolation at day 14 if there has been substantial improvement in respiratory symptoms (or earlier after 24 hours of symptom resolution)
- if the patient is immunocompromised, seek infectious diseases specialist or hospital-led COVID service advice.
Once medically cleared from isolation, the patient can continue to care for their household contacts without being considered a close contact, unless they develop new symptoms or have an exposure outside of their household.
If a person has previously recovered from a COVID-19 infection and there is a new infection in their household, they will still be considered a close contact.
Further de-isolation advice is available on the COVID-19 Care of Low-Risk Self-Care Patients HealthPathway (username: manchealth password: conn3ct3d).
For more advice, see the NSW Health fact sheet on release and recovery from COVID-19 (PDF, 114KB).
There is no requirement to test before returning to work if the patient has been symptom-free for 24 hours prior to leaving isolation.
For staff who have been exposed to COVID-19
- Follow the current guidance provided by NSW Health for managing health care worker exposures (PDF, 228KB).
- To inform decisions regarding staff testing and isolation, use the Health Care Worker COVID-19 Exposure Risk Assessment Matrix (PDF, 324KB).
- Notify SafeWork NSW if a staff member contracts COVID‑19 due to a workplace exposure, or is infectious while in the workplace.
This information is available on the COVID-19 PPE, Infection Control, and Exposure Response HealthPathway (username: manchealth password: conn3ct3d).
For all exposures where the furloughing of a staff member presents a critical risk to safe service delivery, a senior health service manager can approve a COVID-19 exposed staff member to continue work with risk mitigation measures, including a daily rapid antigen test (RAT) for at least 7 days post-exposure.
Where daily RATs are recommended and neither RAT nor PCR testing is available, staff must not attend the workplace for seven days after exposure.
From 5 Jan 2022, a positive RAT result does not require confirmation with PCR testing.
People who receive a positive RAT result should follow the same isolation rules as people with positive PCRs tests.
Offering telehealth options to patients Telehealth services for patients are the preferred option for GPs who cannot attend their workplace or when the practice is closed due to COVID impacts.
For more information, refer to our latest telehealth news.