22 Oct 2021

GPs ready to step up to treat Covid-19 patients at home

9:09 am on 22 October 2021

Patients with insecure housing and those who downplay their symptoms are GPs' biggest concerns as they face caring for Covid-19 patients in their homes.

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Photo: Unsplash / Hush Naidoo Jade

GPs in Auckland are worried about how to deal with the increasing number of Covid-19 patients who need to be cared for at home.

It comes as the daily number of Covid-19 cases in the community hit triple figures for the first time yesterday, with 102 new infections.

The Health Ministry says that, on the current trajectory, the country can expect up to 180 cases a day within two-to-three weeks.

There are 105 Covid-19 patients already isolating at home.

The president of the College of General Practitioners, Samantha Murton, told Morning Report some GPs in Auckland had been taken by surprise after being notified patients of their's were isolating at home.

GPs needed to be able to provide guidance for these patients and a process had been put in place in the last 24 hours.

"As a GP we like to be prepared in advance so we all feel it's a bit like racing to keep up in some ways," Dr Murton said.

A Covid-19 patient needed to be assessed taking into account factors such as their age and existing health conditions and then set up for monitoring at home with a pulse oximeter which is put on their finger so oxygen levels can be monitored remotely.

GPs also needed to know what are the criteria for seeking a higher level of care, such as in hospital.

A care package is being provided to each patient with information, such as advice on getting food supplies and who to contact, and any equipment.

"Our biggest worry is people who have insecure housing, and also have limited data ...Many people don't have access to phones consistently so being able to be in touch."

The other concern was people who downplayed their symptoms. GPs needed to be able to trust that Covid-19 patients will notify them if their symptoms deteriorate.

She agrees that the key message is that GPs are ready and willing to step up.

Most people have a good relationship with their GP, who knows them well and knows their healthcare.

"[It's] a very big job, the thing about it is we know our patients really well and our patients trust us."

Auckland has just got up to speed with the things that are available and then across the country GPs need to have the systems set up, she said.

"Having established what we need in Auckland then it will be much quicker to roll out to the rest of the country."

There was no prospect of GPs outside Auckland being taken by surprise if Delta arrived on their doorstep, Dr Murton said. Many GPs will be planning, talking to their teams and making sure they have the connections, such as with hospitals.

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