COVID-19 fears lead to patients wrongly stopping GP visits

The Australian Patients Association (APA) has urged patients with chronic and undiagnosed health issues to continue to visit their local GP amid concerns patients were staying away from GP clinics for fear of potentially contracting COVID-19.

 

APA Chief Executive Stephen Mason, said he had fielded calls from patients worried about presenting to their GP with non COVID-19 health issues at a time when strict lockdown measures are in place across the country.

 

“We want to put this issue to rest as quickly as possible. Both the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt and the major medical bodies have urged Australians to continue seeing their GPs. It is a call that we wholeheartedly support,” Mr Mason said.

 

“Patients should not be staying away from their regular or ad hoc GP consultations if they have an issue needing medical attention.”

 

Late last week, GP clinics across the country reported a major drop in patient numbers due to the pandemic, either because of COVID-19 fears or problems transitioning to telehealth services.

 

“We have been assured by all the medical colleges, and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, that patients should continue to visit their health professional to ensure continuity of care. All have the necessary safety procedures in place to protest patient safety and limit the risk of patients contracting COVID-19,” Mr Mason said.

 

“Slowing the transmission of COVID-19 in the community doesn’t mean patients can put other medical issues on hold, too. Underlying health issues that are left untreated or undiagnosed can worsen putting both the patients and health resources under greater strain.

 

He said patients failing to seek treatment now for mild to moderate health issues could later place unnecessary pressure on hospitals during times such as the winter flu peak, when hospital and health resources are already under considerable strain.

 

“We aren’t yet out of the woods with COVID-19. So taking health prevention measures now, such as visiting you GP to have a flu shot or have an underlying health issues managed, will limit the chance of a health issue getting worse and potentially limit the risk of a patient needing to visit a hospital emergency department of be admitted to hospital at a time, such as winter, when severe COVID-19 cases could re-emerge.”

 

22 April 2020.