PHNs to receive 2.3 million masks to help fight coronavirus

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

8/04/2020 4:04:45 PM

The announcement is ‘welcome news for general practice’, which has voiced ongoing concerns over a lack of personal protective equipment.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced 11 million masks will be distributed to healthcare workers across Australia.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced more than 11 million masks will be distributed from Wednesday 8 April to healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
The masks will be distributed as follows:

  • Primary Health Networks: 2.3 million
  • Hospitals: seven million
  • Aged care workers: 1.7 million
  • Pharmacy workers: 500,000
  • Respiratory clinics: 160,000
  • Frontline health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: 75,000 masks
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon told newsGP the announcement is ‘welcome news for general practice clinics right across Australia’.
‘GPs are on the frontline combating COVID-19 and doing an incredible job, and it’s essential that they have the personal protective equipment [PPE] they need to get the job done,’ Dr Nespolon said.  
‘The RACGP has advocated consistently over the last few months for more PPE to be made available and government has listened and acted; however, we will remain vigilant because there have been shortages across many clinics.
‘We are still hearing reports from GPs that they don’t have enough PPE and that is something we will continue to fight for.’
Lack of consistent access to PPE has been a major concern for GPs across Australia.
‘Masks have been reaching practices but in very small numbers ... [and] practices remain concerned as the COVID-19 tsunami looms ever closer,’ RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Bruce Willett previously told newsGP.
Dr Mukesh Haikerwal has also told the ABC his clinic in Melbourne’s west is facing possible closure.
‘We’ve had no equipment; that’s all being saved for the hospitals. Yet we are expected to keep people out of hospitals, to do as much as we can in our clinics,’ he said.
Insufficient PPE has already seen a number of Aboriginal health groups in Victoria stop coronavirus testing, faced with the prospect of closing their doors. Meanwhile in New South Wales, a number of Aboriginal Medical Services reported having just two weeks’ supply left.
A number of general practices have also been facing the challenge of a sharp downturn in patient bookings.  Minister Hunt urged Australians not to neglect routine and chronic healthcare needs during the coronavirus crisis amid fears it could cost lives.
‘That means call the doctor, see the doctor if it’s a face-to-face consultation that’s required, but don’t ignore the doctor,’ he told reporters.
‘For all of these health conditions, we want Australians to continue to focus on their ordinary health as well as the coronavirus management.’
GPs have expressed concern some patients may be avoiding consultations due to being uncomfortable with using video consultation technology for telehealth. In such instances, patients are being encouraged to pick up the phone instead.
‘An old fashioned phone will do just fine,’ Dr Nespolon said.

The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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