RACGP President calls for coronavirus clarity

Matt Woodley

3/03/2020 4:25:43 PM

Dr Harry Nespolon wants the Government ‘to be very clear’ about general practice’s role in responding to coronavirus.

Harry Nespolon
Dr Nespolon said general practice will be ‘a central part of the response’ in the event of a larger coronavirus outbreak.

Following the first two confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission within Australia, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon has requested the Government for more information on the role of primary care should sustained community transmission become widespread.
As reported in The Guardian, Dr Nespolon said general practice will be ‘a central part of the response’, but again sought assurances concerning the type of support GPs will need so doctors can receive ‘clear advice’ about what to do before the virus ‘hits’.
‘I’ve been told the Government will put out a plan in the next week or two about the role of GPs and how to resource them, whether that’s protective suits, goggles, whatever the case may be,’ he said.
‘[We have asked the Government] to be very clear about the role of GPs.
‘We have also asked the Government to provide us with an item number to bill telehealth; because taking phone calls to triage people will be inevitable and we need to be compensated to do that, to tell people whether they should come into the clinic or go to a hospital.’
The same article reported that states and territories are set to coordinate on which community general practices will become specialised ‘fever clinics’ to free-up hospital beds.
New South Wales recently announced its 10th and 11th confirmed cases, bringing Australia’s total to 35, but Federal Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy responded to the news by saying there is no evidence of sustained community transmission in Australia and that teams are still focused on containment.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters that primary care and aged care officials are scheduled to meet this week to map out a plan to respond to coronavirus and make sure ‘supply lines are maintained in Australia’.
Residential aged care facilities are thought to be especially vulnerable to potential outbreaks, with those aged over 80 most at risk of dying from the virus.
As Australia’s preparations continued to ramp up, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom-Ghebreyesus conceded global health authorities are in ‘uncharted territory’, but remained defiant about efforts to contain its spread.
‘Containment of COVID-19 [coronavirus] is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries. There is no one-size fits all approach,’ he said.
‘[The] WHO is advising countries on actions they can take for each of the scenarios – first case, first cluster, first evidence of community transmission.
‘Our message to all countries is: this is not [a] one-way street. We can push this coronavirus back. Your actions now will determine the course of the COVID-19 outbreak in your country. There’s no choice but to act now.’
Reports from China indicate it has had some success in stemming the flow of new coronavirus cases, but other countries are now reporting major outbreaks. There were nine times more new infections outside of China than within it on Tuesday; however, of the 76 countries and territories with confirmed cases of infection, 47 had 10 or fewer at the time of publication on Tuesday 3 March.
In Australia, Federal Government modelling provided to the states earlier this week indicates health authorities believe the country still has a window of opportunity to prepare before coronavirus takes hold in the community. 
‘The modelling indicates that potentially, in late April or May, there may be greater spread of the illness here in Australia, and at that point in time obviously we would need to ramp up some of our activities,’ Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan told reporters.
‘The peak would then hit us in potentially August, which is obviously not a great month because [it is among] our coldest months with the highest level of flu.’
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young also referenced modelling that indicates governments are preparing for a 10-week period in which extra healthcare capacity will be needed to deal with an influx of coronavirus cases.
Queensland Health confirmed to newsGP that the modelling had been supplied by the Federal Government, but a Department of Health spokesperson was unable to provide more information on its source or how it was compiled prior to publication.
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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Dr Robyn Cooke   4/03/2020 9:15:00 AM

The response is overwhelmingly confusing to general public. The media are woefully misleading and scare mongering. I expect better leadership. We should stop screening everyone with no compromising symtpoms. Pathology is expensive and someone is profiting. If atypical pneumonia then test and treat if compromised consider hospital antibiotucs steroids as per usual and appropriately. Eeryone else should go to school or work. Scomo should take the UK pms statement today as the response. To add to this GPs are and will be front line just like we are with every other illness. Our job is to assess and treat the sick if sick. If not sick reassure. We should get rid of 14 day quarantee as this will destabalise the economy and people will suffer from this. People are panicked. We need to stop. This is a virus. Some people will get very unwell. Some people will die. Most will not. Sensibly treat like you would the flu. If unwell stay home and call 13health.

Dr Ruth Helen Gawler   4/03/2020 2:56:17 PM

Spot on Robyn. Nothing to add but I think you nailed it!

Dr John Newton Tandy   4/03/2020 3:03:14 PM

Can you give out the figures for the deaths from Coronavirus across the age groups so the we can more confidently advise different age groups regarding their likely illness court and prognosis.
Up to now, we do not have any reliable figures, hence advice to people especially those wishing to go overseas is difficult,

SD   4/03/2020 8:26:03 PM

This virus is much more serious than flu. With more than 3000 casualties and more than 7000 in serious/critical condition out of 90,000, it cannot be taken lightly.
I feel we need dedicated Covid 19 clinics/ rooms adjacent to hospital ED for assessment and tests with PPE equipment outside those rooms. These rooms can also be decontaminated at regular intervals. Exposing GP’s with no clear instructions is only going to take whole clinic out of workforce once contact with infected patient is established.

Dr Rabab Rizvi   6/03/2020 10:37:55 AM

Would it not be a good idea to bring the flu vaccine early so the vulnerable population is saved from a double whammy?
It is now said to be mid April, if we do it now, will stop people from influenza at least