17 November 2021

RACGP: SA GPs urgently need more guidance

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urgently calling on the South Australian Government to provide GPs with far greater detail on how to care for patients once COVID-19 case numbers spike.

It comes following RACGP SA&NT Chair Dr Danny Byrne and Deputy Chair Dr Sian Goodson writing to Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier on 11 November expressing strong concerns about the lack of clarity for general practice.

In the letter, which has not yet received a response, RACGP SA&NT request:

·    government funding for GPs to access appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including P2/N95 respirator fit testing

·    information on what constitutes a “close contact” or “tier one” exposure in a general practice setting

·    clarity on what sort of mask and PPE is acceptable to avoid practices being closed down and what period of exposure is considered “high risk”.

Deputy SA&NT Chair Dr Sian Goodson said that time was running out.

“Borders are opening on 23 November and COVID-19 case numbers in South Australia are going to surge,” she said.

“We urgently need more support and guidance so that we are well prepared to care for patients once case numbers spike in the community. The Department has released a snapshot of the COVID-19 Primary Care Response Strategy but not the actual strategy itself. We are just one week away from borders opening and yet our hardworking general practice teams do not have the details and information they need.

“This issue is front of mind for all GPs, and we are ready to follow the rules. The only problem is that we don’t know what the rules will be and that must change now.”

Dr Goodson said that GPs deserved greater support.

“GPs in South Australia have done a tremendous job throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“We have adapted to the widespread use of telehealth consultations, and we remain the backbone of the nation’s vaccine rollout. This pandemic is not over, and the job is far from done. Borders are about to open, and we need the full backing of the Government.

“GPs and general practice teams need clarity now on the rules and polices that will dictate how we operate our practices from day to day and we need funding for N95 mask fit testing.

“Some practices will conduct all consultations via telehealth to avoid exposure to the virus and potential furloughing of the entire practice. However, this is not a practical option for all consults, particularly since some do need to occur in person. If a COVID-19-positive patient or a close contact visits a general practice, we need to know what our responsibilities are.

“We also need to know what sort of mask and PPE is acceptable to avoid practices being closed down and what is considered ‘high risk’ in the context of period of exposure.

“If this does not happen now, the consequences could prove dire. When case numbers do spike, we will still have our usual patient caseload requiring care, including those who have delayed or avoided screenings and consultations during the pandemic. We must be able to care for them whilst following the rules designed to limit the spread of this virus. 

“As always, we stand ready and willing; however, right now we just simply do not have the guidance to perform our crucial role. That must occur now because time is running out.”

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Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact:

John Ronan

Senior Media Advisor