Childhood emergencies

May 2010

Research

Epicentre of influenza

The primary care experience in Melbourne, Victoria

Volume 39, No.5, May 2010 Pages 313-316

Jenny Bocquet

Tania Winzenberg

Kelly A Shaw

Background

General practice in Australia is expected to play a major role in responding to an influenza pandemic. This study investigated the experience of frontline general practice during the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009.

Methods

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with general practices in the northern suburbs of Melbourne (Victoria) in August and September 2009. Purposive sampling chose practices with high volumes of patient presentations early in the pandemic. Interviews were content transcribed at the time of interview. Major themes were identified through discussion with general practice division personnel and academic general practitioners in the field.

Results

There was significant variability in the pandemic experiences of the 10 participating practices.

Discussion

Addressing issues identified in this study could increase the capacity of general practice to support the community and public health measures during a pandemic. Future planning for the role of general practice in pandemics should include pre-pandemic assessment of practice capacity, review of public health communication strategies and workforce protection, and improved integration of general practice and public health responses.

Increased primary health care capacity is required when influenza-like illness (ILI) due to a novel virus of unknown virulence occurs in epidemic numbers in a community.1 In this situation, primary care potentially provides accessible health services, continuity of care, an available multiskilled workforce, and a triage mechanism for diversion of patients to the tertiary sector.2

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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