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Opinion

Suggestions to manage coronavirus stress


Edwin Kruys


12/03/2020 12:18:20 PM

GPs can listen, address concerns, provide guidance and assist those who struggle to cope amid the ongoing outbreak, Dr Edwin Kruys writes.

GP and patient
A large proportion of the population has been turning to their GPs for advice and support during the coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus is here and is officially a pandemic. People, not surprisingly, are concerned.
 
One of Australia’s leading economists has suggested, ‘The most desperate thing the country needs is a Bex and a good lie down’.
 
He has a point.
 
As the coronavirus angst is rising, Australia needs levelheadedness. Doctors can play a key role here, but there are of course better ways than numbing our collective emotions with old-fashioned pills.
 
The painkiller Bex, containing phenacetin, was banned in 1977 as it was linked to high rates of kidney disease, including renal pelvis cancer. The drug was marketed as ‘mother’s little helper’ (‘All you need is a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down’ – what a tag line).
 
We have all been frustrated about the confusing coronavirus public health messaging, testing procedures, lack of protective equipment and, until this week, no MBS telehealth items.
 
While these issues are being addressed by our peak bodies and decision makers, there is now an opportunity for our profession to help calm Australia’s nerves.
 
A large proportion of the population has been turning to their general practice teams for advice and support. As always, during and after crises, GPs are well positioned to listen, address concerns, provide guidance and assist those who may struggle to cope.
 
Here are my 10 suggestions for GPs:

  1. Be available to your patients at set times; for example, via a phone-back system
  2. Give accurate information about the status quo and how people can manage the situation to achieve the best outcomes
  3. In public forums, provide tips and hope, communicate respectfully and acknowledge the contributions of other health providers
  4. Screen for escalating health problems, persistent or severe distress and difficulties with recovery
  5. Encourage good self-care and stress management
  6. Advise stressed or anxious people to reduce exposure to (social) media
  7. Recommend e-mental health resources and phone counselling services where needed
  8. Regularly touch base with the practice team and don’t be afraid to ask colleagues for help
  9. Take breaks, maintain good general health and practice what you preach
  10. Keep in contact with your loved ones and friends
GPs and general practice teams will play a vital role in responding to coronavirus, including reducing angst and distress. In short, we are needed in what is a troubling time for people in communities throughout the country.
 
So make sure to also take extra care of yourself and your team during these challenging times. And this is especially important for those who work in areas that have been affected by drought, bushfires or floods.
 
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