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Episode 2

COVID-19: Business resilience

Show notes

Welcome to Generally Speaking, the conversation for all GPs, sponsored by CommBank.

Join GPs Dr Gill Singleton and Dr Billy Stoupas as they discuss some of the most pressing topics and challenges in healthcare for Australian GPs to stay informed, connected and inspired.

 This episode, our hosts Gill and Billy open the conversation to discuss the current COVID-19 pandemic with Dr Todd Cameron, acting Chair of the RACGP Business of General Practice Specific Interests network about the impact of COVID-19 on business operations, the introduction of telehealth and the challenges and opportunities this has presented. We’ll then have a Q&A session with Stephen Halmarick, Chief Economist at Commonwealth Bank.

Without any doubt, the breakout of COVID-19 created a major imbalance in every aspects of life globally.

22 April 2020 - 02:48 PM | 24 min 10 sec

(00:00) This podcast series discusses the latest insights and challenges across the healthcare sector. Today, the main topic of discussion is COVID-19 and business resilience in the light of the current crisis. According to host Dr Billy Stoupas, this pandemic has been the most disruptive in history, and he feels Australians are doing a pretty good job slowing down the spread of the virus gradually by maintaining necessary social distancing required. In such challenging times, patients can get a hold of their family members who are socially isolated through skype, video conferencing and other methods, which in Billy’s area of expertise ­– aged care – is an essential piece.

Introduction of Dr Todd Cameron

(04:58) Tell us about your experience on how you’ve managed with the whole COVID-19 pandemic?

All the patient interactions were separated by 1.5 metres and no physical contact was allowed within the clinic. Use of necessary technology enabled the payment system through iPhone, android devices, etc without any physical involvement. Certainly, Todd was making sure anybody with inappropriate behaviour was maintained. Presence of screening in front of the clinic would test the bold range of symptoms for COVID-19. One of the major symptoms was temperature. One of their fundamental findings were that the respiratory system is very sensitive to this particular virus.

(07:42) Being interested in transition to telehealth, how has your patient population reacted?

Todd was delighted to think the patients were mostly grateful for the change. The thing that concerned Todd mostly was the entire place could become a hotspot for COVID-19 as they weren’t sure about which road to follow. Gradually, the transition made for a good cause and was finally able to bring out a satisfactory outcome.

(08:27) From a business perspective, how has been your business mode been affected by the change?

Doctors in most clinics have transitioned and have experienced a decrease in revenue compared to the volume of the work they’re doing; the revenue hasn’t been really satisfactory. As per an approximate estimation, Todd claimed that people were down by 15­–20% in terms of patient volumes and revenue over the four weeks or so up until 22 April 2020. The restaurants and other sort of business might be down but according to general mass, the pandemic must have been a boost for the hospital and pharmacy business, but Todd clears up the fact and assures that business was substantially down.

 (10:29) How long do you think you are preparing yourself to be in this state for?

There are four axis for a pandemic like this ­– one of which is death. Todd says health and medical professionals are trying their best to avoid that one under any circumstances. People with compromised immunity respond more actively to this virus hence Todd, as all healthcare professionals, has been careful about that. People with better immune systems have a higher probability to recover from this. According to Todd, there is another way for building immunisation which is vaccination, which comes with a disadvantage of being a long process. Todd asked us all to be prepared to be in this situation for a long time. However, he is hopeful the situation will come round.

Introduction of Dr Steven Halmarick

(13:22) Tell us about your perspective on what’s happening at the moment?

During this health crisis, as Chief Economist, Steven assures us that Australia has been trying its best in stopping or at least slowing the spread of the virus. According to Steven, the Government closing down a large section of economy and preventing people from travelling at the same time is creating a significant impact on the economy, which is going to create a significant amount of unemployment when the situation falls back to place.

 (15:26) How do you think the current health crisis is affecting the existing unemployment problem?

According to Steven, the economic shutdown is likely to put a massive negative impact on the unemployment estimation. However, Steven states that, initially the rate of unemployment was 5.2% in March, and in the coming months it is predicted to increase to 8% which is considered to be the highest unemployment estimation since the last recession. This estimation is an indicator towards how deep the economic downturn is, since 585,000 Australians are likely to lose their employment over the next three months. This will be quite damaging for the economy.

(17:33) According to you, for how long do we prepare ourselves to overcome this crisis?

‘We take our advice from medical experts,’ Steven says. However, after some analysis Steven assumes the crisis to last up to six months in terms of lockdown protocols. The worst economic period is estimated to last up to the month of June. The more general support offered combination for the JobKeeper payment to subsidise wages, and those eligible for the JobSeeker will be offered some relief. On the financing side, many loans can be put on a six-month pause for repayments to relieve that side of business. We’re all working hard to ensure businesses are viable and the economy can also get back on its feet.

  • In this crucial time, it’s all about slowing down the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.
  • Standard recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid physical contact with people who are infected.
  • Generally, in a recession spending is always down and unemployment is up. Australian households with a high level of debt will save more and spend less including on health and medical expenses.
  • Being a part of communities, GPs have the authorisation and knowledge to provide a trustworthy environment for patients with a goodwill in expecting their full recovery.

Generally Speaking is an RACGP podcast, sponsored by CommBank and hosted by GPs.

Resources referred to in the podcast and on the webpage are not necessarily endorsed by RACGP and views of the presenters are their own.

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