Transition policies and resources for healthcare workers

The following policies and resources will assist the Western Australian (WA) health system in responding to the anticipated surge in COVID-19 community transmission and continue to provide excellent care to our community.

The information applies to WA public sector clinicians, private health providers, general practices and pharmacies.

System Alert and Response (SAR)

The WA Health COVID-19 Framework for System Alert and Response (SAR) describes the processes and interventions developed for the WA public hospital system to respond to the risks posed by COVID-19. This information is provided here so that others in the health system are aware of the plans for transition for the public hospitals.

The SAR provides overarching guidance for public hospitals to manage and mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19 transmission. This will help protect patients and maintain appropriate and safe care to all patients, visitors and staff. Those leading WA Health’s COVID-19 response will use current WA COVID-19 case data, vaccination rates and service delivery intelligence for geographical areas to aid decision making on alert and response levels at a statewide, regional or local level. The SAR outlines activities and actions which should be taken by health services in response to changing levels of risk.

For further information see the WA Health’s System Alert and Response (SAR) – COVID-19 Framework fact sheet (PDF 193KB).

Workers in high-risk settings
Guidance for when COVID-19 cases can return to work in high-risk settings, and the requirements for asymptomatic close contacts to attend work in high-risk settings, including health care settings, aged care facilities and residential care facilities (including disability care and mental health residential facilities) is available at COVID-19 in the workplace – Information for employers and employees.
COVID-19 in the workplace
Guidance and resources for businesses, facilities and service providers to assist with managing COVID-19 is available at COVID-19 in the workplace – Information for employers and employees.
Patient transport

All patient transport activities should utilise standard modes of transport. Transport via ambulance must be reserved for those patients who clinically need it. All other patients can be transported by regular means with appropriate protections in place, such as mask use for the driver and the patient.

The Infection Prevention and Control in Western Australian Healthcare Facilities resource provides advice on patient transport for inter and intra hospital transfers.

Elective surgery procedures (including day procedures)

At a time to be determined by the Chief Health Officer, all elective procedures in the public and private sector (medium and large hospitals) will reduce to only essential Category 1 and 2 cases for approximately 8 weeks.

The proposed 8-week reduction aligns with the length of the expected COVID-19 peak. This is consistent with the experience in the eastern states.

WA Health will take these actions proactively so there are fewer disruptions to bookings and cancellations, noting this will be inconvenient for patients seeking elective surgery.

More information regarding the start date for these reductions will be provided once available. Until then, current elective surgery policies should remain.

Protection through PPE

PPE guidance that is applied at all SAR levels is outlined under the PPE guidance tab within the COVID-19 Framework for System Alert and Response.

The page also details PPE guidance for:

  • all staff at public health service facilities
  • patients
  • visitors/carers

Masks mandatory in WA public hospitals and health service facilities

All staff at public health service facilities must wear a surgical mask, at a minimum, across all areas of the health facility. A surgical mask should be removed when moist, soiled, or difficult to breathe through. Masks should be replaced following any shift or meal break and at least every four hours or more frequently, as required.

For more information about the use of personal protective equipment in public hospitals and health service facilities, see the COVID-19 Framework for System Alert and Response (SAR), ‘PPE guidance’ tab.

Correctly fitting PFR masks

PPE is only protective when used correctly.

All healthcare workers wearing a Particle Filtration Respirator (PFR), such as an N95 or P2, must have undertaken a fit test, and know the brand and size of the PFR that achieved a satisfactory fit for them. They need to have access to that brand and size when a PFR is required.

The WA Department of Health requirement for wearing a PFR is that no facial hair is present between the wearer’s skin and the PFR, in accordance with Standards Australia and the manufacturers’ instructions for use.

PFRs provide protection to the wearer when COVID-19 is aerosolised (usually during an aerosol generating medical procedure). PFRs are now recommended in all areas of public hospital emergency departments

Correctly donning and doffing masks

Training in donning and doffing procedures is essential for correct mask use to reduce exposure risk to the healthcare worker.

Fit check must be performed after donning a PFR and prior to entering the patient’s room, and each time a new mask is put on.

More information

Telehealth

All WA Health public outpatient services will now return to using telehealth where possible.

For WA Health, from 31 January 2022, all appointments must be delivered via telehealth unless there is a critical reason why the person needs to physically attend. 

Those subject to a COVID-19 public health order requiring quarantine or isolation can access Medicare subsidised telehealth services without needing to demonstrate an established clinical relationship with the provider of the telehealth services.

More information is available at MBS Online (external site).
Students, volunteers and visitors

Students can continue to attend facilities for training placements, but formal teaching sessions will be unlikely once COVID cases rise. Students may be deployed to support the response in appropriate ways; however, they must be vaccinated, PPE trained and fit tested prior to attending health sites. The Department of Health will advise universities of the student requirements for WA Health public facilities.

Universities should keep a record of their student’s PPE training/PPE fit testing requirements to ensure their students are up to date.

Volunteers will continue to be welcome at health sites providing they are vaccinated and appropriately trained in PPE, particularly if they are located within clinical environments. Consideration should be given to any COVID-19 risk factors that volunteers may have, such as chronic disease or respiratory illness.

Visitors will be permitted in hospitals, with limits placed on the number of visitors for each patient. The COVID-19 Public Hospital Visitor Guidelines provides recommendations for health care services for all patient visitors to public hospitals. Private hospitals can develop their own visitor policies, in line with existing Directions.

It will be mandatory for all hospital visitors to be vaccinated from 31 January 2022, in line with the Proof of Vaccination Directions.

Further information on visitor numbers will be available from your workplace.

Last reviewed: 22-08-2022