WHY THIS GUIDANCE?
Our patients have been telling us that the COVID rules are really difficult to understand and sometimes confusing. We know our patients want to do the right thing, and have been really good at following the rules to the best of their ability.
We have written this guide because you have asked us for some more information to understand how you can make sure your are complying with the new 'Stay-at-Home' rules.
While we have made every effort to provide accurate and clear information to our patients in this Guidance we are a charity and not the NSW Government. You MUST still follow the official NSW Covid Rules published on the NSW Government web site at all times.
Where the NSW Government rules conflict with this guidance, you must follow the NSW Government rules.
We have asked the NSW Government on behalf of our communities if they can provide some more plain-language information for rural and remote people to help us to continue to do the right thing. We will update this guidance as soon as we receive further information.
A large number of rural and regional communities in NSW are now subject to a ‘stay-at-home’ order issued by the NSW Government. The rules apply to everyone who lives in, works in or has visited:
Bogan Shire, Bourke Shire, Brewarrina Shire, Coonamble Shire, Walgett Shire, Narromine Shire, Gilgandra Shire and Warren Shire on or after 5 August 2021.
the Tamworth local government area on or after Thursday 5 August 2021
the Dubbo local government area on or after Sunday 1 August 2021.
the Newcastle, Cessnock, Dungog, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Port Stephens or Singleton local government areas on or after Saturday 31 July 2021.
the Ballina, Byron, City of Lismore and Richmond Valley local government areas on or after Saturday 31 July 2021
the Armidale local government area on or after Thursday 29 July 2021Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour local government areas on or after Monday 21 June 2021.
If you live in, work in or have travelled in a Local Government Area (LGA) subject to a ‘Stay at Home’ Order above you must stay at home for the duration of the order unless you have a reasonable excuse to leave your home.
For example, if you worked or stayed in Tamworth on or after 5 August 2021 and then returned home, you must follow the 'Stay-at-Home' rules for Tamworth. This includes patients who just made a quick stop in a place like Tamworth after these towns were declared a Stay-at-Home location.
If you stopped off in Walgett to buy some petrol or a snack on your journey on or after 5 August 2021 you must follow the Stay-at-Home order for Walgett Shire (that is, you must stay at home until 19 August 2021).
The Stay-at-Home order applies to you for the same amount of time as though you are a resident of the declared Stay-at-Home area.
LEAVING HOME WITH A REASONABLE EXCUSE
You are allowed to leave your home however if you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. A reasonable excuse includes “receiving medical treatment” at a medical centre or hospital that is allowed to be open under the Rules.
For a full list of 'reasonable excuses' please go to https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/what-you-can-do-nsw.
RARMS Health Medical Centres are authorised to be open under the ‘Stay-at-Home’ rules.
Going to a RARMS Medical Centre
A patient who is subject to a 'Stay-at-Home' order has a reasonable excuse to leave home:
to attend a medical, allied health or specialist appointment at a RARMS Health medical centre;
to get a COVID or other vaccination at a RARMS Health medical centre;
to call an Ambulance and be transported to a hospital;
to attend the emergency department of a hospital if you have an emergency.
If you are after something like a sick certificate or repeat prescription, and you don't need to see the local doctor in-person, then make a Telehealth appointment instead and stay at home.
But don't put off seeing your GP if you are concerned about something or for chronic disease management. Its important that we all keep healthy during this period.
Going to a Hospital in a 'Stay-at-Home' location for Treatment
Many rural and remote patients have to go to specialist appointments or to undergo treatments in places like Dubbo or Tamworth. Patients undergoing treatments such as dialysis, radiation therapy or chemotherapy must continue their treatment program. This is really, really important as you may get complications if you stop.
We strongly advise you to ring your specialist or the hospital and find out about the rules for attending appointments or continuing your treatment before travelling to make sure it is still available and to find out what rules you need to follow.
If you are expecting a baby in the next two months, make an appointment with your GP straight away so we can make arrangements just in case you need to travel to a larger regional centre.
If you are not sure what to do or who to ring, call your local GP for help. But please make sure you continue any treatments you need and talk to your specialist or hospital.
Travelling to a 'Stay-at-Home' town for treatment
When travelling to a ‘Stay-at-Home’ location, patients should always check with the hospital or specialist beforehand.
If you are given the OK to travel, please avoid stopping in any other town on the journey.
You should fill up your car with petrol before you leave your own local government area and take plenty of water and food, and all your medicines, as well as warm clothes for the journey there and back. If you need to get petrol, or go to the loo, on the way make sure you wear a mask and keep your distance from locals. Wash your hands with hand sanitiser or soap and water before and after you leave the vehicle.
If you need someone to drive you, you should only be accompanied by a member of your household that you normally live with to reduce the risk of infection to yourself or others.
Remember to take identity information (e.g. your drivers license, Medicare card etc) to show to the Police should you be pulled over for a check.
If you do not have access to your own transport, or someone to drive you if this is needed, please contact your local Community Transport provider to arrange transport or ring the hospital delivering the services to request assistance.
If you are a RARMS patient and are having any difficulties, please contact your local medical centre and we will do our best to help.
ATTENDING A RARMS HEALTH MEDICAL CENTRE IN YOUR TOWN
All patients attending an appointment at a RARMS Health medical centre MUST:
1. Make an appointment at https://www.rarms.org.au/locations-1 and only attend if you are feeling OK. If you are feeling unwell on the day, call the medical centre straight away and let them know and we will organise for the doctor to ring you.
2. Follow all the instructions when you arrive at the practice including signing in before entering the practice using the QR code (or in writing if you do not have a phone);
3. Clean your hands with the hand sanitiser which is provided at the front door;
4. Bring your own face mask and wear it (we will not permit anyone to enter the practice without a face mask)
5. Keep your distance from other patients and staff (we may organise for seating outside some practices to keep patients separated).
If you need a sick certificate, repeat prescription etc we encourage you to ask for a Telehealth consultation with your GP to reduce the need to travel to the practice unnecessarily. If you aren’t sure if Telehealth is the right choice for you, book a Telehealth appointment and talk to your GP who can tell you if you need to come in.
In an emergency, call an Ambulance on 000 or go to the local hospital Emergency Department.
ATTENDING A RARMS HEALTH MEDICAL CENTRE FOR YOUR COVID VACCINATION
If attending a RARMS Health Medical Centre for a COVID vaccination clinic, please note:
The rural and remote towns that get access to vaccines is decided by the Primary Health Networks. RARMS Health has no control over which towns get vaccines or the number of vaccines we receive. We know this is really frustrating for everyone but please don’t take your frustration out on our staff. Everyone is trying to do their best.
To receive a vaccine at RARMS Health, you MUST make an appointment (go to https://www.rarms.org.au/locations-1 to book your appointment).
Please do not attend a RARMS Health medical centre and expect to get a vaccine without an appointment. Priority will go to people who have a chronic disease and the elderly.
To reduce the number of people travelling between different LGAs, which increases the risk of COVID transmission, please make an appointment with your nearest COVID vaccination centre to your LGA.
Please feel free to make an appointment to talk to your GP via Telehealth if you need advice on whether to get the Astra Zeneca vaccine. RARMS Health has Astra Zeneca available in all our practices except Tenterfield. We are trying to get Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for all our RARMS Health practices and will continue to work on behalf of our communities to get vaccines for you, however, the final decision is made by the Primary Health Network.
If you do not follow RARMS Health COVID rules you will not be allowed into the practice (face masks, social distancing, QR codes etc).
In some higher risk locations, such as Walgett, we will begin a ‘drive through’ vaccination clinic by appointment to reduce the risk of COVID transmission among patients. Make your appointment in the normal way by going to https://www.rarms.org.au/locations-1, stay in your car and follow the instructions of our staff to get your vaccine.
Our practice staff, nurses and doctors are doing the very best they can under very difficult circumstances. We understand that this situation is frustrating but please do not be rude, abusive or violent towards our staff – we are members of your community and disrespect will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
FURTHER NOTE FOR SYDNEY AND NEWCASTLE PEOPLE
If you live in Sydney or Newcastle and are subject to a 'Stay-at-Home' order we ask that you do not make an appointment for a COVID vaccinations at our rural and remote practices. It is not appropriate for city residents to take vaccinations away from vulnerable rural and remote people. It is also inappropriate for these residents to travel to a a RARMS Health medical centre in a rural or remote community to get vaccinated when this will increase the risk to vulnerable people of contracting COVID. We will of course provide vaccinations for people who live in Sydney or Newcastle who have been travelling in our communities and are not subject to a 'Stay-at-Home' declaration, but otherwise don't try to jump the queue at the expense of our patients. It's just not fair.