COVID-19 information for
GPs and residential aged care facilities.

Page last updated: 9:45am, 21 October 2020

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network’s role in aged care is to:

  • Improve access to GP care for residents
  • Improve the connection between GPs, residential aged care facilities and hospital services
  • Increase access to mental health supports for residents and staff

We are working closely with our Expert Advisory Group and the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.

Our key focus areas

Clinical leadership and advice

  • Formation of a COVID-19 Aged Care Expert Advisory Group, Chaired by Dr Jagdeesh Dhaliwal

Building strategic relationships and networks

  • Strategic meetings with the Commonwealth Department of Health, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre
  • Advocating for improved communication, coordination and processes with GPs and mental health services working in residential aged care facilities (RACFs)

Mapping RACF preparedness, response, and recovery plans

  • Conducting a needs assessment of all 130+ facilities in our region to identify needs, issues and to connect with the GPs that provide care to their residents

Establishing a GP community of practice/peer-learning network

  • Survey of GPs to identify those working in aged care to connect to the community of practice/peer-learning network
  • Providing opportunities for GP education and peer networking; planning a webinar series in conjunction with Victorian Primary Health Networks to ensure consistent messaging where it applies across the state; PHN-based learning networks to identify and address local issues

Enabling system coordination

  • Facilitating joint meetings and case conferences with GPs, RACFs and local hospital in-reach services to determine clear communication pathways and support requirements

Development of resources

  • This dedicated information hub on the NWMPHN website for information, advice, and links for GP working with RACFs
  • Maintaining the COVID-19 Aged Residential Care Assessment and Management HealthPathway to support GP management of COVID in RACFs
  • Developing advice/tip sheets to help GPs and RACFs plan for outbreaks
  • Developing a communications strategy to maximise reach of information to all GPs working in RACFs

Enabling access to mental health supports

  • Commissioning mental health services for residents and staff of RACFs
Expert Advisory Group

A new Aged Care Expert Advisory Group (EAG) has been convened to inform our response to COVID-19 in aged care facilities.

The group includes GPs, pharmacists, hospital residential-in-reach representatives, residential aged care facility representatives and the Commonwealth Department of Health. The group is Chaired by Dr Jagdeesh Singh Dhaliwal, a GP with many years' experience working in aged care settings.

EAG members


  • Dr Jagdeesh Dhaliwal, GP and Medical Director, Aged Care GP

NWMPHN Executives

  • Janelle Devereux, Executive Director, Health Systems Integration
  • Jagjit Dhaliwal, Executive Director, Service Development and Reform

GP representatives

  • Dr Tony Bartone
  • Dr Robert Hurley
  • Dr Terry Ahern
  • Dr Jo-Ann Silva

Pharmacy representatives

  • Jarrod McMaugh, Director, Capital Chemist and Project Pharmacist, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia
  • Dr Jenny Gowan, Consultant Pharmacist, Gowan & Associates Pty Ltd and Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

Residential aged care representatives

  • Heather Gray, CEO of Dorothy Impey Home
  • Heather Rota, McKenzie Aged Care

Residential in-reach representative, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne

  • Dean Jones, General Manager Subacute, Aged Care, Home and Community Services, St Vincent’s Hospital

Commonwealth Department of Health representative

  • Annabel Thorpe Acting State Manager, Victoria-Tasmania, Commonwealth Department of Health

NWMPHN project management

  • Sue Merritt
Victorian Aged Care Response Centre

The Commonwealth Government has established the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre to improve the coordination of the response across governments and to improve access to health care for residents.

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) is working with this new Response Centre, Commonwealth and Victorian governments and other stakeholders to ensure GPs are provided with the information they need to maintain care for their patients in aged care facilities.

A key focus for NWMPHN is to ensure the GP voice is heard by other stakeholders.

Below is a summary of key information, resources and links including localised resources for GPs in the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) region.

Mental health services for aged care residents

Free psychological support service

A new service is now available to provide free psychological support to residents in aged care facilities in our region. NWMPHN commissioned Better Place Australia to deliver this service.

The service is for residents who are at risk of or are experiencing mild to moderate mental health concerns. This includes residents living with anxiety, depression, or who are experiencing social isolation, and new residents transitioning into residential care.


To enquire or refer to the service please contact:

Rhonda Withers
Better Place Australia
P: (03) 9556 5333

  • Referrals to the Better Place Australia psychological support service can be made by the resident’s GP or by a registered nurse of the facility, with the consent of the resident (or a resident’s next of kin).
  • Once a referral is received, Better Place Australia will contact the residential aged care facility to make arrangements with the facility and to set up an appointment with the resident.

Service delivery

  • Experienced mental health practitioners including a mental health nurse, mental health social workers, and psychologists will provide psychological support to residents.
  • Services will be offered by phone, telehealth, or face-to-face (when it is possible and safe to do so).
  • Services can be provided on an individual basis and/or through group sessions with other residents (if appropriate).
  • The service may be suitable for some residents with dementia, but it is not an alternative to the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) for residents who are experiencing changes in behaviour that affect their care or carers. DBMAS can be contacted for advice or to make a referral on 1800 699 799.

NWMPHN resources

HealthPathways Melbourne
Tip sheets for residential aged care facilities
Tip sheets for GPs working with residential aged care facilities

NWMPHN is developing tip sheets to support GPs caring for patients in residential aged care facilities in our region.

The information in these tip sheets has been developed in consultation with our new Aged Care Expert Advisory Group, convened to inform NWMPHN’s response to COVID-19 in aged care facilities, and the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre led by Professor Michael Murray.


Our 15 September webinar for GPs, Better telephone and video consulting in aged care settings, is now available to watch on demand.

RACGP resources


The RACGP has developed an aged care clinical guide (Silver Book) for deprescribing where appropriate. For example, reduce the number of dose times in 24 hours to reduce exposure of staff.

Preparing for COVID 19 in aged care (webinar)

The RACGP held a webinar on 27 August 2020: Preparing for your first COVID-19 case in aged care – Lessons from Melbourne. Presenters included Dr M Imran Marzook, Dr Jagdeesh Singh Dhaliwal, Dr Cathy Parsons, Dr Paul Yates and Dr Nicholas Jones.

Home-care guidelines for adult patients with mild COVID-19

The RACGP has developed this guide for GPs to support them in providing home-based care in a private residential home (including public or community housing) for adult patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

Palliative care

Medication management

Supplying medicines to RACFs: requirements for pharmacists

A summary of mechanisms available to pharmacists to lawfully supply Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 poisons to residential aged care services is available on the health.vic website.

Dexamethasone and COVID-19

FAQs about dexamethasone and COVID-19 are available on the World Health Organisation website.

Government resources

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission

The role of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of people receiving aged care.

The Commission is the national end-to-end regulator of aged care services, and the primary point of contact for consumers and providers in relation to quality and safety.


Australian Government Department of Health
Older persons COVID-19 support line

The new Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line provides information, support and connection Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6.00pm on 1800 171 866.

Victorian Department of Health and Human Services
Worker permit scheme

Worker permit details and forms for permitted workers and employers in greater metropolitan Melbourne during stage four restrictions are available on the Victorian Government website.

Other resources

Communicating with RACF residents during COVID-19

The following internationally developed resources are designed to equip GPs with the confidence to effectively communicate with RACF residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce

The Taskforce is supporting Australia’s health care professionals with continually updated, evidence-based clinical guidelines.


Strategies to promote access to medications during the COVID-19 pandemic

An article describing initiatives to ensure ongoing access to medications during the COVID-19 pandemic has ben published in the Australian Journal of General Practice.

Safer Care Victoria COVID-19 screening tool for RACFs

Use this screening tool to identify typical and atypical signs of COVID-19 in the aged care residents.

COVID-19 hub

Quick links

Everything you need to know.

Disability care

Better care for people with disability.

Primary care pathways

Management of COVID-19.


Who to contact.

Stay informed

How to keep up to date.


Resources and advice.

Screening clinics

Locations and details.

Masks and PPE

Request forms and information.


Influenza and other vaccines.

Financial assistance

Support is available.

Self care

Support for primary health care workers.

Mental health

Resources for better care.

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