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03 August 2022

RACGP: WA general practice teams deserve full support

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has once again warned that GPs and general practice teams need the full support of the Western Australian Government.

It follows comments from Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan this morning that pressures on the state’s hospitals can be attributed to “signs on the doors of GP clinics” advising patients with respiratory symptoms to visit a hospital emergency department. This echoes comments made by Premier McGowan in May this year when he claimed that GPs were “driving more people into our hospitals”.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price reiterated that GPs and general practice teams in Western Australia deserve better. 

“Unfortunately, our message doesn’t appear to be cutting through,” she said.

“Today’s comments from Premier McGowan are completely unfair and don’t take account of the pressures facing practices across the state. GPs and general practice teams are delivering COVID-19 vaccines and boosters as well as influenza vaccines, prescribing COVID-19 antiviral treatments, helping people who have delayed or avoided consultations and screenings during the pandemic and those with mental health issues and delivering more patient services than ever. That is a lot to deal with and it’s unacceptable to blame an overburdened hospital system on general practice.

“Premier McGowan has had several months to reflect on his initial comments in May this year, consult with general practice and come to a more informed view of what is causing the immense pressures on the state’s health system. If he had done his homework he would know it is our preventive care, early intervention, and sub-acute care that results in reduced numbers of people presenting to emergency departments in the first place. We are on the frontline doing an incredible job and we are desperately needed by our communities more than ever before. It is not an exaggeration to say that without us, the healthcare system would collapse.

“The Premier should be getting behind GPs and general practice teams. Instead, he is once again kicking us when we are down. Once more, I encourage Premier McGowan to reflect on the fact that GPs and general practice teams truly are the foundation of the nation’s health system and that we are doing our absolute best.”

RACGP WA Chair Dr Ramya Raman said that the Western Australian Premier should try and spend a day in the shoes of a general practice team.

“Today’s comments are extremely disappointing,” she said.

“It is not that GPs are ‘sending away’ patients. Rather, practices do everything they humanly can to help all the patients that come through our door every day with a range of health conditions including respiratory illness. Please keep front of mind that each individual practice has to make extremely careful decisions about managing patients in the midst of high COVID-19 community transmission.

“Some practices in Western Australia will have the capacity to see patients with respiratory symptoms; however, others sometimes will not. Discarding all the systems we have implemented during the pandemic to help keep our practices and teams as safe as possible simply isn’t an option. Practices have to carefully triage symptomatic patients and implement infection control precautions, and this takes time and resources.

“If practices don’t have the space to manage this task, they will have processes in place to refer patients appropriately, be that to a nearby practice or a local GP led respiratory clinic. Something that all practices have to have front of mind is limiting the spread of COVID-19 through a practice to avoid GPs and staff contracting the virus and being forced to isolate. That, in turn, has a massive impact on patients in that community who need to consult with their GP.

“So, again I urge the Premier to reconsider his comments because right now GPs and general practice teams need all the support we can get. We are on the frontline of this pandemic doing our absolute best in very trying circumstances and don’t need another headache.”

This RACGP resource has been developed to support GPs and general practice teams in providing care to people with respiratory symptoms.

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