Online Appointment & Recall System
The Practice is using "HotDocs" for our online appointments and Recall System. Please see information regarding this secure system here.
Our aim is to provide a seamless parallel online service to our regular service. If you have any trouble with the online service please remember you can always call us to make appointments. We value your feedback, please let us know how you are finding our online services. Thank you.
Influenza outbreak in Port Stephens
We are having a significantly worse than normal flu season and have had some very sick patients with the flu.
Tests on our patients have shown that Influenza A and B and Parainfluenza virus are all doing the rounds.
We have seen a significant number of people who have had this year’s flu vaccine who have still got the flu. This suggests that maybe some of the circulating strains of virus are different to those in the flu vaccine. We don’t have proof of that yet.
Flu generally causes fevers, sweats, aches, sore throat, nasal congestion and cough. Headache, vomiting and weakness are also common features but the virus affects people differently and not everybody will have a ‘full house’ of symptoms.
What do I do if I get flu?
The mainstay of treatment is supportive - lots of fluids, simple painkillers or chemists cough and flu tablets and plenty of rest. These treatments make you feel better but don’t shorten the course of the illness.
We can prescribe antiviral treatment (Tamiflu tablets) which should be considered for anyone presenting with moderate or severe illness, and for those presenting with mild illness and who are from a vulnerable group at risk of severe illness eg. people with chronic disease (heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes etc) or chest problems.
Tamiflu can be given to anyone over the age of 1 and to pregnant women who are known to be particularly prone to severe and complicated flu. Some people want to take Tamiflu just because they want to get back to work quicker and that is perfectly reasonable.
Anti-influenza treatment with Tamiflu should be initiated as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. Evidence for benefits from treatment in studies of influenza is strongest when treatment is started within 48 hours of illness onset.
Tamiflu is not a magic wand but has been shown to shorten the duration of the illness by a few days on average.
Prevention of flu in household contacts
Flu is spread by droplets (coughing) or touching contaminated surfaces eg. door handles. Keep your distance from the patient and isolate them as far as possible, wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand sanitiser. Clean surfaces and door handles with an antiseptic product. If you have to be in close contact with a family member with flu (eg. driving) get them to wear a face mask.
Tamiflu can be taken by close contacts of flu victims as prevention and should be strongly considered if the contact is at high risk of complications (see above).
A course of Tamiflu for treatment or prevention costs about $45 and is only available on prescription. If the outbreak grows it may become difficult to obtain.
What about vaccination, am I too late?
Immunisation is not too late. We have a limited supply of a few private and government vaccines (for eligible patients) left to give on a first come first serve basis.
Although the vaccine does not protect against all strains it is effective against most strains.
We would particularly urge unvaccinated patients going on cruises, bus trips or aeroplane flights to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Every plane flight, every bus trip and every cruise is likely to have a few passengers with flu who are infectious to others and our experience is that air travel, bus trips and cruises are very high risk when it comes to the spread of flu and other viruses.
At the Surgery
We are busier than normal (and doctors and nurses get sick too) but we will do our best to see flu patients who feel sick enough to be seen and all patients who want Tamiflu for treatment or prevention.
Remember Tamiflu is only really effective if it is taken early in the course of the illness so you need to tell reception staff you think you have flu and they will get you seen.
If you want an immunisation, book in with the nurses - no need to see a doctor. Again, we will squeeze you in urgently if you, for example, are travelling overseas soon.
Could everyone who has a flu like illness please wear a face mask when they arrive at the surgery (which we will provide) and if possible wait outside until they are called. This protects our staff and also other patients in the waiting room who may be particularly vulnerable to flu infection or its complications.
Influenza Vaccination 2017
We are getting into the swing of the 2017 flu vaccination season. We have deliberately delayed vaccinations this year because the latest research suggests that if given too soon the vaccine may be less protective when the flu season comes around (usually August & September in this area).
Up to this point we have therefore been focusing on patients travelling overseas.
Flu vaccine at our surgeries are FREE for all patients over 65, most ATSI patients, pregnant women and patients under 65 with chronic illnesses that could lead to complications from flu e.g. asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or coronary disease.
For patients not fitting the above categories a private vaccine is available for $20.00.
We only use high quality Quadrivalent vaccine (effective against four strains of flu – (some vaccines only protect against 3 strains.)
Some pharmacies now offer flu vaccines for a price. We however pride ourselves on providing a complete and comprehensive immunisation service. When we do a flu vaccine we look at your immunisation status and if necessary will perform other vital immunisations at the same time e.g. pneumonia, measles, whooping cough, shingles etc. Pharmacies do not offer this comprehensive care.
Our flu clinics are running and are currently taking bookings now. Our clinics run on time and our immunisation expertise will ensure patients are kept up to date with all their vaccinations for vaccine preventable diseases.
Having a second flu vaccine?
Because of the issue of the flu vaccine losing its potency over time, there is now some evidence that a second flu vaccine is useful late in the year for patients travelling overseas, particularly to northern hemisphere countries in their Winter. Patients in this category should think about this later in the year.
Williamtown Red-Zone Area: Free PFAS Blood Testing
The Australian Government is providing a free blood test for Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) for people who live or work, or who have lived or worked, in the Williamtown, NSW and Oakey, QLD, Investigation Areas and who have potentially been exposed to PFAS.
- Free blood testing will be available to eligible individuals until 31 March 2018.
- A Statutory Declaration will be required from the individual seeking a blood test, or the parent or guardian of a minor, to confirm they are eligible for a free blood test under this program.
You can book your initial consultation at Shoal Bay or Anna Bay Medical Centres and we will have the required statutory declaration forms and further information available for you. Both pre- and post-blood test appointments are required in order for individual blood test results to be discussed in person and an appropriate explanation of the results to be provided; including the limitations of PFAS blood testing in individuals.
In recognition of the stress that this issue has caused, the Australian Government has also established dedicated mental health and support services if required. More information is available from your GP. Click here to view a map of the Red-Zone Area
Free Shingles Vaccination for 70-79 Year Olds
The Federal Government has introduced a free shingles vaccine. Unfortunately supply is limited.
We will be getting in touch with patients who are eligible to get them to come in for the vaccine.
Shingles, a recurrence of the chicken pox virus, is a nasty illness causing a painful rash which can be complicated by lifelong pain and visual disturbance / blindness if it affects the eye.
Unfortunately the government’s vaccination program is limited. The vaccine is available to anyone over 50 and recommended for everyone over 60.
If you are not in the 70-79 age group we still strongly recommend vaccination at a cost of $240 and we have the vaccine in stock.
The vaccine is not perfect – we have had 2 patients in the practice who have had very mild doses of shingles after being vaccinated – but it does seem from the research that if you get shingles after vaccination it is normally mild and heals without long term problems.
If you do actually get shingles, and it can happen at any age, early treatment with antivirals will lead to fewer adverse outcomes. Ideally antivirals should be started within 24 hours of appearance of rash and definitely within 72 hours. After that they don’t seem to work and you can only have symptomatic treatments.
Drs & Nurses Get Sick Too
We are well aware that it is frustrating when your appointment gets cancelled because your doctor is unwell and we are sorry about the inconvenience it causes. However, our doctors all have busy days and every working day they have to make a lot of important and sometimes life saving decisions for their patients. They need to be in good health to do this well – we do not want to make mistakes with your health.
A proportion of our patients at the surgery are susceptible to serious complications from simple infections such as head colds and flu. It is part of our duty of care not to spread infection to vulnerable patients and doctors and nurses are therefore obliged to stay away from the surgery when they are infectious to others.
We thank you for your understanding.