Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

We know it's a challenging time and that you may have questions about COVID-19 and your cancer treatment.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions which may assist you.

If you have further questions are on active treatment please call your Patient Navigator and if you're not on active treatment you can get all your questions answered about COVID-19 and cancer by specialist cancer nurses at Cancer Council Australia. 

The COVID-19 virus is spread between people in tiny droplets in a sneeze or cough or from direct prolonged contact with someone who has the infection. The virus can also live on surfaces so it’s important that you practice good hand hygiene and avoid touching your face.

At Peter Mac we’ve massively increased cleaning and have dozens of new hand sanitiser stations across the centre to assist with this. 

Cancer treatment, for example chemotherapy, can lower the immune system. 

If you are currently undergoing or have recently undergone cancer treatment you may have a weaker immune system and it’s therefore important that you take additional precautions to reduce your risk of infection from COVID-19.

It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19  and to contact your treating team by phone if you are starting to feel unwell for further advice. 

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing you should call 000 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

If you are not currently receiving treatment for your cancer but are worried about COVID-19 please contact the Cancer Council Australia hotline on 13 11 20.

Cancer is a high priority ‘category one’ condition and most cancer cases require prompt action.

It is normal and understandable to be anxious about visiting a hospital or treatment facility at this time, but Peter Mac is working closely with Victorian government to do everything possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

We have robust infection prevention measures in place including screening at entry points, increased cleaning and social distancing measures in our waiting areas.

We have also massively increased the use of telehealth consultations to reduce the amount of people needing to come into the building for follow-ups. 

Delaying treatment may impact outcomes so it’s important to speak with your treating team if you have any concerns.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used to prevent the ‘spread’ or transmission of infections between patients, healthcare workers (HCW) and the surrounding environment.

Examples of PPE include: gloves, long sleeved gowns, eye/face protection and masks.

Peter Mac staff will use full Personal Protective Equipment if they need to come into contact with patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. All our staff have access to PPE if and when they need to use it. 

This is the current directive from the Department of Health and Human Services who are working closely with all health services to keep Victorians safe. 

Good hand hygiene is the best defence against COVID-19 and we continue to closely monitor people entering our building at the screening points to minimise risk. 

There has not been a COVID-19 case at Peter Mac. 

Why aren't all healthcare workers wearing the same PPE?

There are national guidelines provided to healthcare services regarding the use of PPE by staff. These guidelines ensure the safety of patients and HCWs.

The use of PPE by staff is determined by the degree of risk of exposure to infection. In the setting of the COVID pandemic, use of specific elements of PPE is determined by whether a patient meets high-risk criteria (e.g. recent travel), the clinical status of a patient (e.g. presence of cough), and the nature of any procedures being performed in a health care setting.

Gloves and gowns are typically used when the HCW is at risk of touching blood or bodily fluids.

These would be worn if a patient was unwell with respiratory symptoms (e.g. coughing, sneezing).

Eye and face protection is used when a HCW may be at risk of a splash of blood or bodily fluids during a procedure. Masks are used to protect a HCW from either a splash exposure of droplets or from inhaling potential tiny particles in the air.

Should I use PPE myself?

Advice remains the same that it is not necessary for members of the public to wear face masks for protection against COVID-19.

This advice may be different to countries overseas due to differing situations and we should follow the advice of our local authorities.

DHHS is providing regular advice around preventing transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19)

At Peter Mac we’re following DHHS guidelines on visitors and allow one visitor per patient at any one time. No children under 16 are allowed and we ask that you do not visit if you are unwell.

We understand it’s important to have someone with you when you’re going though cancer treatment, so we also allow one support person to accompany patients for appointments.

Please remember to keep a safe social distance of 1.5 metres from our staff and patients at all times when visiting Peter Mac.

It’s important that you’re well informed and reading the most reliable information about COVID-19.

The Department of Health and Human Services  has comprehensive information about COVID-19 and if you have general questions about cancer and COVID-19 there are resources available from Cancer Council Australia.

If you have specific questions relating to your cancer or treatment, please contact your Patient Navigator.