Update on 5 May 2020

An announcement from the Victorian Department of Health

Up to 100,000 Victorians will be tested for coronavirus over the next two weeks as part of a major testing blitz across Victoria, to better understand how the virus is spreading in the community. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has launched the Employee COVID-19 Testing Support Line.

This service is available to employees of Victorian businesses who have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild. The service can be reached on 1300 363 417. The Employee COVID-19 Testing Support Line will be open 24 hours, 7 days a week and will provide timely advice and recommendation on options to access testing for coronavirus (COVID-19).

People can be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) in a range of settings across Victoria. For information on where to get tested, please visit here.
 

How can the Employee COVID-19 Testing Support Line support workers?

As well as general advice on testing, this service includes supportive options for testing of staff of Victorian businesses including:

  • Information on where to go to get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Assistance with transport to local testing sites where required.
  • A follow up / reminder call about testing if requested.
 

How can employees access the Employee COVID-19 Testing Support Line?

Managers are encouraged to refer their staff to the Employee COVID-19 Testing Support Line on 1300 363 417.This hotline is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Managers can discuss this option when a staff member calls in sick, or during a regular working from home welfare check. When calling the hotline, a nurse will discuss the worker’s needs and provide support to seek testing.

Alternatively, all Victorians can call the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398. This hotline is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. This Hotline can provide advice on testing and a range of other coronavirus related issues.
 

What symptoms should I look out for?

You can be tested if you are showing some symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Most people who have coronavirus (COVID-19) have symptoms such as cough, fever or sore throat. Some other symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of sense of smell

In many cases these symptoms can be mild. It is important that even those who are experiencing mild symptoms be tested. Diagnosing possible cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) early, even when symptoms are mild, helps health experts control the spread of the virus. By getting tested when you have symptoms you will be doing your bit to protect all Victorians.
 

What will happen when I visit a testing site?

People can be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) in a range of settings across Victoria. For information on where to get tested, please visit: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/getting-tested-coronavirus-covid-19. You will be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) by a nurse, doctor or other health professional. Please make sure you have with you your Medicare card or a form of identification. It may take a few days for the test results to be returned. If your doctor says you are well enough to return home while you are waiting for your test results you will need to self-isolate and monitor your symptoms as described below. You will be considered a ‘suspected case’ until your test results come back.
 

What is a suspected case?

A suspected case is someone who has symptoms (however mild) of coronavirus (COVID-19) and is being tested but has not found out the results of their test yet. Until your test results are known it is very important that you self-isolate and monitor your symptoms.
 

What happens if my test is negative?

If your tests are negative, you can continue to work and go about your usual activities, whilst continuing to follow the current directions that are in place. If you develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the future, you must self-isolate and not go to work. You will also need to be tested again.
 

What happens if my test is positive?

A Public Health Officer will contact you to find out more information from you and provide you with further advice about what you need to do. If necessary, a specialist may be involved to further assess your situation to ensure you are getting the support you need. It is important that you stay in your home or accommodation until a Public Health Officer advises that you are no longer infectious, and it is safe to return to normal activities.

You will also need to follow any directions issued under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 that relate to your diagnosis.  People who you have had close contact with, including family members and people you live with, will need to self- isolate for 14 days since their last contact with you.

If your condition deteriorates, seek medical attention, taking the following steps:

  • Notify the department or Public Health Officer managing your care by calling the number provided to you.
  • Follow the direction of the Public Health Officer who may advise you to go to a doctor or a hospital and will agree with you how you should get there.
  • Call ahead to the doctor or hospital and inform them that you have coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • If you need to leave your home or accommodation to seek medical attention, put on a mask if you have one.
  • When you arrive at the doctor’s surgery or hospital, tell them that you have coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath:

  • Call 000 and request an ambulance.
  • Inform the ambulance officers that you have coronavirus (COVID-19).
 

What happens if my result is borderline positive?

There is a very small chance that your test result will not be clearly positive or negative. These results are considered “indeterminate” or borderline positive. If your test is borderline positive, you will be considered a positive case and will need to follow the same instructions for positive cases (see above), until we can determine whether your test is truly negative or positive.


Should I wear a face mask?

If you are unwell, you should put on a mask if you have one to prevent spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) to others. Face masks are not recommended if you do not have symptoms. A facemask will not protect you against becoming infected.


Where can I find out more information?

Call the coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 1800 675 398  to discuss any questions you have. If you need a translator first call 131 450, then request the hotline on 1800 675 398

For Victorian updates about COVID-19, click here.

For national updates, click here.

Update on 28 April 2020

Download the COVIDSafe app today

The Australian Government has launched the COVIDSafe app, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The app can be downloaded for Apple on the App Store and Android on Google Play.

By automating contact tracing, it will help ease the current restrictions. Downloading the app is completely voluntary, but it is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. The more people connect to the COVIDSafe app, the better it will work to help stop the virus.

The app helps find close contacts of Covid-19 cases. It helps state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to Covid-19. The COVIDSafe app speeds up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19. This means you’ll be contacted more quickly if you are at risk. This reduces the chances of you passing the virus on. At the end of the Australian Covid-19 pandemic, users will be prompted to delete the COVIDSafe app from their phone. This will delete all app information on a person’s phone.

For detailed questions and answers about this app, see the Department of Health’s COVIDSafe app FAQS.

Update on 22 April 2020

Elective surgeries set to resume on 27 April

It was announced yesterday that the Government will be easing restrictions on elective surgeries. This is very good news for our members who have had their surgeries postponed or who have a new need for surgery over the past few weeks. If you have had your surgery delayed, the hospital will be in touch with you to discuss rescheduling it.
 
The reintroduction will be staged, determined by a person’s doctor and will include the following surgeries, day surgeries and other procedures:

  • Procedures representing low risk, high value care as determined by specialist societies
  • Selection of patients who are at low risk of post-operative deterioration
  • Children whose procedures have exceeded clinical wait times
  • Assisted reproduction; endoscopic procedures; screening programs; and critical dental procedures

The situation will continue to be assessed every couple of weeks to determine whether further restrictions can be lifted, and alternatively if they need to be reintroduced if Covid-19 cases start to increase.

Update on 17 April 2020

Why you should keep your private health insurance during Covid-19

You might be thinking around about now, is it worth even having health insurance? Can I use my Extras or have elective surgery? It is normal to feel anxious in these uncertain times. Everybody has been affected by COVID-19, whether directly or indirectly. The "not knowing" what's coming next takes its toll on everyone.

Luckily we have instant methods of communication, which means the top information and statistics are at our fingertips. Technology is helping us stay healthy and connect with colleagues and loved ones, which in turn helps ease some of the isolation we may be feeling. If you are uncertain about why you need health insurance, we’ve outlined some reasons why it’s probably not a good idea to cancel your cover.

  • Telehealth services: You can now use your Extras cover for a wide range of Telehealth services (telephone, or video call), such as: dietetics, physiotherapy, psychology, speech pathology, occupational therapy and exercise physiology.
  • Emergency dental treatment: Emergency dental treatment, health aids and prescriptions are still covered. And you can now have your PBS medicines delivered to your home from the pharmacy of your choice, free of charge, thanks to the Government's "COVID-19 Home Medicines Service".
  • Claiming on optical: You can still claim on your glasses and contact lenses at many optical outlets. Also, ambulance treatment and medical transportation is still available.
  • Elective surgery: Currently 43% of elective surgery* is still going ahead (*Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia, radio interview), when the surgery is considered urgent. People still need hospital treatment for pregnancy and births, cancer, kidney dialysis and many other health issues. And they will still need elective surgery options for conditions they might currently have or that might develop over the coming months; hips will need to be replaced, knees reconstructed, hearts repaired, spines fixed and accidents addressed.
  • Peace of mind: Private hospital cover means peace of mind. You might want to use it to be treated as a private patient for COVID-19. And the option to be admitted to any hospital as a private patient is still available.
  • Mental health: Mental health problems will most likely increase due to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. Private health cover is a critical source of accessing many mental health services, particularly psychiatric care.
  • Avoid being on a waiting list: When we do come out the other side, there will be a huge demand for treatments that are restricted at the moment, particularly genuinely non-urgent elective surgery and routine dental care. Maintaining private health insurance will help people avoid waiting lists and waiting periods.
  • Avoid future penalties: By maintaining your health insurance you won’t attract penalties such as the Lifetime Health Cover Loading which can last for 10 years, or tax bills in the form of the Medicare Levy Surcharge. You will be in a much better position than if you let your health cover lapse.

If we profit, you profit

There has been discussion in the media suggesting private health insurers will make a lot of money during this time. We can’t speak for other health funds, but Transport Health will not benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not in our makeup to profit from any adverse situation. Any extra revenue will always be passed on as benefits to our members.
When restrictions are lifted there will be a backlog of elective surgeries to be performed. And some conditions may worsen in the intervening time, creating a bigger demand for surgery and claims being paid out than before.


Please don't neglect your general health or other medical conditions

If you have a regular follow up appointment booked with your doctor, please contact your medical practice to see if this can be carried out using a Telehealth consultation. The government has expanded Medicare-subsidised Telehealth services for all Australians.

It is a good idea to have your regular flu shot. While this won’t protect you from COVID-19, it will help reduce the severity and spread of seasonal flu, which can lower your immunity and make you susceptible to other illnesses. Australians over the age of 65 and children under the age of five are eligible for a free flu vaccine through the National Immunisation Program.

If you have regular blood tests as part of the management of a chronic health condition, please continue to have your blood tests done at your local general practice or local pathology collection centre.

We want you to be in the best possible health when the COVID-19 health emergency ends, so it’s critical that you continue to manage your general health during this time.

Update on 31 March 2020

A message from our CEO

For 130 years rt health has been looking after Australian transport and energy workers and their families to safeguard their health. Now, more than ever, you can rely on us to look after you.

In these challenging times, our focus remains on protecting the health and safety of our members, while continuing to provide great value cover and access to high quality health services.
 

Six-month delay to ALL premium increases for ALL members

We have made the decision to delay the premium increase that was due to take effect on 1 April for six months. This will afford all rt health members immediate relief during this challenging time. You don’t need to take any action – we will address the changes in our systems and adjust your account accordingly.

Many members pay their premiums 12 months in advance to lock in the pre-increase rate. If that’s something you’ve done, you have still locked in the lower premium for the period between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021.


Changes to product cover remain

Although we are putting a freeze on the change to your health insurance premiums for six months, we are not putting a hold on any product changes that might affect you. These were detailed in our letter to you on 2 March, depending on the level of cover you hold.


Private health insurance rebate adjustment

The private health insurance rebate adjustment that was due to come into effect on 1 April, 2020, has been removed by the Government.

This means you can continue to claim a rebate at a higher rate, which results in more money in your pocket.


Even greater levels of support for members under financial stress

All organisations, including ours, are doing everything we can to offer care and support to people in need. We are a not-for-profit, mutual fund, which gives us a special relationship with our members, and also means we have to put in place measures that are suitable given the type of business we are.

Our decision to delay premium increases is just one of a number of support measures in place for members seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, please contact our member services team to discuss the options available to you, depending on your individual needs, circumstances and level of cover.

Please note that eligibility criteria and conditions apply.


Video and telephone service for some Extras

The Government has this week announced a significant change to the way Australians can access a variety of different types of healthcare, including making it possible for some practitioners to provide consultations via tele-health (telephone or video) and for health funds to pay extras benefits on some telehealth consultations.

For members who are not able to access face-to-face consultations with their providers, we are finalising arrangements to allow telehealth for some services. This will enable members to continue to receive care from allied health professionals without having to attend face-to-face consultations and still claim for these services. We will write to members in the coming days to define exactly which services are covered under this new scheme.


Does rt health cover treatment for Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

rt health’s Hospital policies ensure our members are covered for the clinical category of Lung and Chest. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus resulting in mostly supportive treatment for respiratory symptoms, such as pneumonia – for which our members are covered.

It is important to note that Extras policies do not cover hospital treatment. If you only have Extras you are not covered for hospital treatment.

If you feel your cover doesn’t meet your needs, we can sort something out – that’s what we’re here for on 1300 886 123 or you can email us.


Financial hardship/premium relief

Changes to the cost of our premiums apply from 1 April and I recognise this may generate concern for some members. Please understand the timing of this increase is part of a whole-of-industry timetable, and not of our choosing.

We are a not-for-profit mutual fund, which means our priority is our members and making sure we provide health cover they need at the lowest possible price. That continues to be our absolute focus.

We are working hard to identify ways in which we can play our part to relieve pressure on those members most affected as a result of the current pandemic. We will publish important information about this soon, detailing initiatives that support our hardest hit members and those who have supported rt health for so long.
 

Closure of healthy teeth and healthy eyes clinics

We have made the difficult decision to close our healthy teeth and healthy eyes clinics from Saturday 28 March. This has come about as the risks associated with providing close personal services continue to increase.
 
These closures affect the:

  • Sydney healthy eyes and healthy teeth clinics
  • Charlestown healthy eyes clinis
  • Brisbane healthy teeth clinic

For those members and patients with glasses to pick up or appointments booked in the near future, we will be in touch soon.

I want to thank all our members who have attended our clinics and our fantastic clinics team for being such an important part of rt health, dating back to 2013 when the first clinic opened in Charlestown, Newcastle. I am deeply saddened about this decision for all members and staff involved.


Our member service branches

In response to the government’s call to stay at home, all rt staff are now working from home and are fully operational. As we are no longer in our Sydney, Brisbane and Charlestown branches, they will remain closed until further notice. We've been planning this for some time and although we may be working from home, we remain ready to help you. 

Until we are once again able to welcome members into our branches, we can be contacted on 1300 886 123 or you can email us.

Emergency dental treatment is available in Sydney at:

Otherwise contact your nearest hospital emergency department but please be patient as they may already be stretched due to COVID-19.

Emergency eye care is available at:

Currently overseas or returning early from overseas?
For those members who have suspended private health insurance due to overseas travel or who have returned early from an extended trip and who need to reactivate their cover, please contact us on 1300 886 123 or you can email us.


We're here for you

Our call centre is operating at full strength. It’s an incredibly busy time, but we are determined to serve all our members with efficiency and dedicated care right now. Please feel free to call us on 1300 886 123 and speak to one of our member service specialists.


Looking ahead

As the situation rapidly evolves, please keep up to date by regularly checking the Australian Government’s Department of Health website for the latest information and advice.


Simone Tregeagle, Group Chief Executive Officer