23 Mar 2020

Doctors demand more protective gear for distance consultations

From Nine To Noon, 9:42 am on 23 March 2020

With frontline healthcare workers extremely vulnerable to Covid-19, the Medical Association wants a guarantee there will be a steady supply of personal protective equipment.

A doctor examines a patient for a COVID-19 test inside a testing tent in New York.

A doctor examines a patient for a COVID-19 test inside a testing tent in New York. Photo: AFP

As of today, as many GP consultations as possible will be carried out remotely.

Medical Association chair Kate Braddock tells Nine to Noon personal protection equipment was being made available to practices, but there was a risk of running low and the Ministry of Health should not try to hold it back for hospital use, she said.

"If it doesn't come out to the practices now so that we can contain it in the community then the hospitals will be over-run.

"To stockpile for when the hospitals are over-run is a futile argument."

GPs are managing contact in surgeries to protect their own workers who were at increased risk.

"Because if the workforce falls over, then we have nothing,” she says.

"We need to have that personal protective equipment and we need plenty of it so that when we see anybody who fits the criteria for Covid currently, we can dress safety and protect ourselves, our workers, our staff."

Dr Baddock says her medical centre faces a big job.

"There are six doctors working, so we're talking, you know, 60 to 70 people who are already booked.

"We will remain entirely flexible about how we do this. It will be what we have available and what they have available and are comfortable doing."

While there’s a move towards remote consultations, face-to-face consultations are still necessary when someone is in pain, she says.

"It's very difficult to assess what a pain might mean without actually examining someone."

Someone experiencing respiratory problems will have to be seen at some point, but in the first instance should call Healthline (0800 358 5453).

"We need people to be really, really thoughtful about just fronting up to any surgery, anywhere."

The association is looking at ways people can get prescriptions without needing to collect from the surgery itself. In many cases, prescriptions will be faxed directly to a pharmacy.

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