19 October 2021

GP clinics fast-tracked to take strain off hospitals

COVID-19 Hospitals

As Victoria braces to reopen this week, the state government is bringing forward the opening of GP respiratory clinics to prepare for a surge in cases in the community.

Today, the Victorian government announced an accelerated timeline for its $23.8 million scheme, which would allow a number of GP-led clinics to provide additional covid testing and treatment services to patients with respiratory symptoms.

The clinics, due to open within the next six weeks, would be located in the high-demand areas of Melbourne, Monash, Brimbank, Hume, Wyndham, Moreland, Darebin, Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong, Melton, Casey, Greater Dandenong, Kingston, Cardinia, Whittlesea, Banyule and Boroondara.

The announcement was welcomed by the RACGP, which said the additional clinics would take some of the strain off Victorian emergency departments, which have been under a great deal of pressure in recent months.

Nine newspapers report that a record number of Victorians sought medical treatment at the state’s emergency departments last month.

Calls to triple-0 also reached record levels in late September, a demand not seen since the 2016 thunderstorm asthma event.

According to the Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley, services at the new GP respiratory clinics would be made available for all individuals, regardless of whether they were eligible for Medicare.

Dr Anita Munoz, the RACGP Victoria chair, said the move would also allow everyday GP practices to refer patients to the respiratory clinics for critical testing, and treatment, if required.

“With case numbers still concerningly high in Victoria, our health system faces increasing pressure, as more people will inevitably end up in emergency departments. This initiative couldn’t come at a more critical time,” she said in a statement.

“GPs who can’t see patients with respiratory symptoms in their own practice will be able to refer them to one of the new GP respiratory clinics. It will make a big difference for patients, particularly families with young children who will be mixing more with friends and may catch coughs and colds.”

Covid cases continue to surge in the state this week as the population edges closer to reaching its initial vaccination target of 70%.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told a press conference today that the state would open shortly after that vaccination target is reached, on Thursday evening at 11.59pm.

But even before that, from midnight tonight, vaccinated people from NSW will be able to cross the border into Victoria, even from former “red zones”, without completing quarantine or taking covid tests. [updated to reflect a late change]

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