Influenza pandemic planning - Preparing for winter 2022

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

Source: APNA Primary Times Winter 2022 (Volume 22, Issue 1)

Influenza season is fast approaching, and predictions are that Australia will see a rise in influenza cases this winter. After 2 years of COVID-19, is your practice established, equipped and capable of responding successfully in the event of a flu pandemic? 

The scheduled approach to pandemic planning emphasises the necessity of viewing any risk as part of a continuing cycle of actions in the 4 areas of prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. Every pandemic plan should be structured in such a way that it moves through all 4 stages. 
The purpose of these measures is to support movement through primary health care services by managing patients using preventative models of care. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a change in the way businesses operate. Many of the changes that have been developed and implemented during COVID-19 can be continued and incorporated as part of normal processes into health-care systems and ongoing pandemic planning. These include: 

  • Density limits and social distancing 

  • Utilising telehealth services 

  • A triage system that identifies high-risk patients who can be seen outside the clinic  

  • Increased surface cleaning of high-touch areas 

  • Maintaining good air flow within buildings and workspaces 

  • Avoiding aerosol-generating procedures 

  • Ongoing training and education for staff. 

Conducting a walkthrough of the workplace can facilitate the identification of risks. The key points to consider within each of the four areas are as follows: 



  • The workplace should assign a pandemic coordinator whose role is to identify any potential risks during the winter season. 

  • All staff should be offered an influenza vaccine and a register of staff immunisations should be kept by the coordinator 

  • A contingency/escalation plan should be in place for cleaning policy.  

  • Spills kits need to be checked to ensure they are complete and easily accessible. 

  • Vaccination clinics should be promoted. 

  • Identify high-risk patients and arrange to vaccinate them first. 



  • Conduct regular staff meetings to discuss identified challenges, education, and review of current processes. 

  • Ensure staff are up to date with guidelines for PPE, triage, and isolating patients. 

  • Check adequate stock available of PPE, vaccines, and equipment. 

  • Ensure resources are available for patients, such as information on how to access the closest GP respiratory clinic. 

  • Review the established systems that are already in place from COVID-19 planning.  

  • Identify additional workforce or workforce hubs/teams. 

  • Monitor influenza rates through government and other medical services sites. 



  • Implement the plan and relay to other staff members. 

  • Review measures as demand on services increases. 

  • Monitor and support staff welfare – workload and demands can lead to burnout and fatigue. 



  • Continue to track all prevailing advice and guidance regarding disease to facilitate a successful plan, as well as to improve prevention methods. 


All staff should hold knowledge of transmission-based precautions to reduce risk: 

  • Airborne transmission (measles, chickenpox virus, pulmonary tuberculosis, influenza, enterovirus, norovirus and less commonly coronavirus, and adenovirus) 

  • Droplet transmission (influenza, pertussis, rubella, coronavirus) 

  • Contact transmission – direct or indirect (viral gastroenteritis, Clostridium difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, scabies, coronavirus). 

To effectively prevent and manage infection, it is critical that all employees are trained and deemed competent in all areas. This should be managed by a designated member of staff who holds primary responsibility in infection prevention and control (IPC). Management requires a current policy identifying training that will be implemented at the commencement of employment and ongoing for IPC when changes arise, such as a notification of a disease occurrence. 

The Infection Prevention Helpline in conjunction with Murray PHN are available to support the review of your IPC systems and processes. The helpline is manned by two registered nurses with the support of subject-matter experts. 

For advice on all your infection prevention and control questions, please contact the Infection Prevention Helpline team on 1800 312 968 or via the webpage,

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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