19 March 2020

You told us about your COVID-19 experience, here are the results

Communicable Disease General Practice Government

The COVID-19 outbreak is increasing the pressure on health professionals and leading many to question the nation’s leadership during this crisis, our GP readers say.

A survey of 104 Australian GPs, conducted this week by The Medical Republic, found that 72% of doctors were unsatisfied with the federal government’s response to the crisis in primary care.

More than 85% of doctors surveyed said they had signs up at their surgery warning patients not attend the clinic if they had cold or flu-like symptoms.

But when asked what the most time consuming part of dealing with COVID-19 was, 30% of doctors conceded it was because patients were still showing up to their surgery who were already sick and hadn’t followed pre-screening advice.

Other time consuming issues included having to deal with general coronavirus enquiries over the phone (18%) and spending time sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) (17%).

And sourcing PPE is a growing challenge for most GPs surveyed, with 86% reporting they don’t have enough masks to protect themselves or their staff when seeing patients.

“There is no leadership and no clear government policy,” one GP said. “It’s chaotic and will continue to get worse.”

And on the testing front, GPs also felt they had little to no guidance.

“We’re not contact tracing and testing so we have no clue what is happening,” one GP said.

Just over half of GPs surveyed said there was a lack of clear information about which patients needed to be tested, and which patients could just be advised to self-isolate.

Other doctors said they were seeing patients constantly who were not sick, but said they required a certificate to prove they did not have the virus, so they could return to work.

“There are many of these patients [we see] every day, they are a complete waste of time and they are using up appointments,” one GP said.

And despite the recent introduction of telehealth item numbers to reduce GPs face-to-face caseload, GPs sampled by The Medical Republic were divided, with 44% of doctors reporting they still didn’t know how to bill for phone and video consults.

Some GPs were also concerned of the financial toll this COVID-19 outbreak could have on their business if GPs are forced to take two weeks off work for mild cold and flu symptoms.

“What happens if GP surgeries have to close down or self-quarantine?” one GP said. “Will there be financial support to practice owners to stop them going bankrupt?”

Other GPs were concerned they wouldn’t be able to deliver quality care to their patients if they were forced to run their daily clinic with a skeleton-staff.

“When will we get the support ?” one GP said.

The Medical Republic has its ears open to the struggles and suggestions of our GP readers at this difficult time.

If you have a story you’d like to share, or a concern you’d like us to investigate, please email [email protected] or reach us on twitter to @frankiecrimmins or @medicalrepublic.

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