RACGP joins calls to make rapid antigen tests free for all

Matt Woodley

5/01/2022 4:49:07 PM

President Dr Karen Price has urged the Federal Government to do ‘everything possible’ to expand access to the increasingly vitals tests.

Rapid antigen tests.
If there are supply constraints, the college is requesting that priority populations who are most at risk be prioritised for free rapid antigen tests.

The RACGP has joined a growing chorus of medical bodies and experts imploring the Federal Government to increase access to rapid antigen tests as the Omicron variant continues to sweep through most parts of the country.
Overwhelmed PCR testing facilities have meant symptomatic patients are routinely queueing for hours at a time, only for many to ultimately be turned away, while others have resorted to camping overnight in an attempt to secure a test.
The current outbreak has accelerated to such an extent that Australia has recorded more cases in the first five days of 2022 (217,453) than it did in the 679 days since registering its first case on 25 January 2020 (216,576).
And with nearly one in three people currently returning positive PCR test results in NSW, along with around one in four in Victoria, these numbers likely represent only the tip of the iceberg.
The scale of the situation has led RACGP President Dr Karen Price to call on the Federal Government to urgently expand access to rapid antigen tests, which she says can play an invaluable role in protecting the health system and the community.
‘Delays in accessing PCR testing as well as delays in receiving the results mean that rapid antigen tests need to be accessible to all people right away,’ she said.
‘Without access to PCR testing, those who are COVID-positive cannot access pathways of clinical care for COVID-19 in the community, including remote monitoring of symptoms and escalation if symptoms worsen.
‘Unless they have a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, patients also cannot access the … treatment sotrovimab. Furthermore, their close contacts are at risk of spreading COVID-19 further, as they are simply not aware that they are at risk.
‘We must do everything possible to ensure that anyone can access a rapid antigen test when they need one.’
To help manage the unprecedented caseload, the RACGP has requested that the Government provide:

  • general practice with a stock of rapid antigen tests for patients with a medical history or symptoms that suggest a test is needed
  • high-risk locations (such as supported accommodation and aged care facilities) with a stock of rapid antigen tests
  • free access to all people in Australia, supply permitting, and prioritising target populations during any periods of short supply. 
However, speaking following Thursday’s national cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued to resist any suggestion of making the tests free to all Australians.

‘Universal free access was not considered the right policy response by all of the states and territories in attendance today, and the Commonwealth,’ he said.

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) and the AMA have also called on the Government to increase supplies of rapid antigen tests, but with global supply chains likely to remain stretched for at least the next fortnight, Dr Price said it is important that vulnerable populations are prioritised.
‘If at times we don’t have enough rapid antigen tests to make them freely available for all people in Australia, we must target the priority populations to ensure that those most at risk do still have access to free supply,’ she said.
‘Priority populations include those at high risk of disease due to underlying health conditions and obesity, people aged 65 and over, people in communities where vaccination rates are lower such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and those with complex care needs such as people living with a disability or in residential aged care.
‘It also includes those in living high-density households, people working in high-risk professions such as healthcare workers and hospitality workers, people in populations that have the highest prevalence of COVID-19 and a high likelihood of transmission such as those aged between 20–30 years, and those who cannot be vaccinated such as children aged five and under.
‘They must be front of mind because if they can’t access a rapid antigen test when they need one the consequences could well prove dire.’
Dr Price also warned that the pandemic is ‘far from over’, even though emerging evidence suggests Omicron leads to less severe symptoms than previous variants.
‘We are not out of the woods because with escalating case numbers we will see more and more people require hospital care, and there will be much more pressure on our already overburdened health system,’ she said. 
‘The time for action is now.
‘If we can help people identify whether or not they have the virus through freely available rapid antigen tests, we can limit community transmission and protect the most vulnerable members of our community.’
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Dr Christine Marie Lonergan   6/01/2022 9:35:20 AM

Pcr queues- person go along them and offer Antigen test to take home and and give them ph number and email address to contact with there details if positive. Do esp if queue longer than 1 hour