Infection prevention helpline

By Lisa Sinkins, APNA Project Officer and Sara Drew, APNA Nurse Programs Manager

Source: APNA Primary Times Summer 2021 (Volume 21, Issue 2)

Has COVID-19 saturated every pore? Do you need protection from the downpour?  

The Victorian Infection Prevention Helpline, in conjunction with Murray PHN, is here to help clinicians and other staff working in primaryhealth-care settings (e.g., general practice, community pharmacies and community-controlled Aboriginal health services) to navigate and provide support for both broad and narrow questions around infection prevention and control.  

Back before COVID-19 was known in clinical practice, staff would likely have linked the word ‘exposure’ to managing a needlestick injury, cleaning up vomit or managing a patient who attended the practice with suspected measles.  

Now, when we think about exposure, we immediately think of COVID-19, coughing, sneezing and what personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn on a day-to-day basis. The fatigue from this is real and apparent in the workplace.  

What has transpired in many cases is the strengthening and connection of teams. You are now a well-oiled machine where all staff members share information, advice, and experiences. The workforce has come together to look at ways of protecting themselves, their loved ones and people within the community.  

Each member of the clinical (and non-clinical) team is now acutely aware of pathogens and how quickly diseases can be spread. Many are looking to the horizon at how to manage the transition back to handling the many important elements of care their practice or service previously provided, and constantly checking environmental cleaning processes and PPE to see what works for them in busy face-toface clinics and services, compared to the times where telehealth may have been predominantly utilised.  

Workdays, training and education have essentially all been focused on COVID-19, but you may find that accreditation time is fast approaching. Although you will have perfected your cleaning policies, you may need to brush up in other areas that may have been put aside for the last 18 months.  

The Infection Prevention Helpline is manned by two full-time registered nurses who have the support of subject-matter experts from the Victorian Department of Health’s COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Program. This means they can tailor their answers to your questions, no matter how big or small. And your questions don’t have to be COVID-19 related; they can be about your practice policies and systems for accreditation or anything else relating to infection prevention and control.  

The Infection Prevention Helpline team are here to help, and below are some questions that link to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and other industry core standards for accreditation.  


Communication and patient participation  

How have you been able to provide effective communication to your patients, so that you can maintain safe vaccination clinics?  


Rights and needs of patients  

How are you managing your vaccinehesitant patients? Have you offered your patients a safe place for vaccinations? 


Practice governance and management  

Have you designed your practice pandemic plan and looked at ways to maintain business continuity during an outbreak? The Infection Prevention Helpline team can look at your current plan and offer support.  


Health promotion and preventative activities  

Are you promoting COVID-19 vaccinations for your clinic? Are you providing advice and information for the staff and community?  

Vaccine clinics provide clinical staff the opportunity to educate patients on topics such as hand hygiene, mask wearing and vaccine protection.  


Management of health issues  

Have you maintained your regular clinical meetings and provided upto-date clinical information with the team?  


Information management  

Are you confident that during COVID-19 and flu clinics your processes are maintaining patient confidentiality?  

What are your processes to manage a large cohort of patients and provide privacy?  


Content of patient health records  

While you have been busy vaccinating, have you updated and amended patient records, such as their allergies?  


Education and training of non-clinical staff  

So, you have all been on a huge, fastpaced learning curve. How have you made changes in involving the whole team in those educational updates? Have you been documenting and assessing those processes for future referencing?  

For advice on all your infection prevention and control questions go to  

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The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

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