21 August 2020

RACGP: need to maintain healthcare services for patients on Queensland border

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says access to essential health services must be maintained for patients while the Queensland border is closed.

Since August 8 entry to Queensland has been restricted, with those who cross the border required to quarantine for 14-days. People who need to cross the border to perform essential activity need to apply for an exemption pass.

On Monday Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk said the government had no intention of opening the borders to any state or territory that still had community transmission.

Many GPs and other medical specialists live in Queensland and cross into northern New South Wales for work. GPs have reported lengthy waits to receive exemptions to cross the border.

Chair RACGP Queensland Dr Bruce Willett said the impact on patient care was a serious problem.

“This is necessarily affecting the provision of health services to patients on both sides of the border, particularly in New South Wales.

“We need to ensure patients have access to essential health services on either side of the border while these measures are in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The RACGP is keen to work collaboratively with the Queensland government to find solutions that will both protect the health of Queenslanders and maintain health services in border areas.

“Where possible, job swapping arrangements should be facilitated.

“Practices should also make use of telehealth appointments for patients who don’t need an in-person consultation. The RACGP advocated strongly for subsidised telehealth appointments to increase access to healthcare – they work perfectly well for a range of consultations, and can help ensure patients still receive ongoing quality care.

“In circumstances where essential services are not available, exemptions need to be provided to GPs and other healthcare workers to enable those services to continue.

“Exemptions that are necessary to allow essential health services to continue need to be provided in a timely fashion.

“The process of reviewing applications for exemptions needs to be efficient, the last thing we want is patients missing out on essential care because they can’t access health services. Health workers’ applications should be expedited.”

The RACGP developed a letter template to assist GPs who need to cross borders for work.

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