The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has once again warned that GPs and general practice teams deserve the full support of the Western Australian Government.
It comes following comments from Premier Mark McGowan last night that patients were turning to hospital emergency departments because of a reduction in GPs bulk-billing and some practices refusing to see respiratory patients.
This in turn follows his comments during a radio interview last month when he said 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. The Premier also claimed earlier this year that GPs were “driving more people into our hospitals”.
RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that the message wasn’t cutting through.
“Here we go again, this is like Groundhog Day. At a time when GPs and general practice teams are doing their absolute best in very trying circumstances, the last thing they need are comments laying blame at their feet,” she said.
“Let me be clear, this is a political misdirect to avoid accountability for pressures within the state’s hospital system. The Premier should have front of mind the immense workload facing practices in Western Australia and across the rest of the country. We have been, and continue to be, the backbone of the health system through this pandemic. In addition, we are continuing to help people who have delayed or avoided consultations and screenings during the pandemic and caring for those with mental health issues.
“I have said it before, and I will say it again – it’s unacceptable to blame general practice for an overburdened state hospital system. Premier McGowan clearly hasn’t learnt anything following his comments earlier this year. Once again, I encourage him to consult with general practice and come to a more informed view. If he had done his homework like I asked last time he would know it is our preventive care, early intervention, and sub-acute care that results in reduced numbers of people turning up to the state’s overcrowded hospitals in the first place.”
RACGP WA Chair Dr Ramya Raman said that the Western Australian Premier needed to listen to general practice.
“Premier McGowan doesn’t understand the pressures facing GPs and general practice teams,” she said.
“We do everything we can to help our patients, but there are realities that we face operating in a pandemic and that includes making decisions about managing patients in the midst of high COVID-19 case numbers. Some practices in my home state will be able to see patients with respiratory symptoms; however, others, sometimes will not depending on their circumstances including the space of the clinic.
“We have the responsibility of triaging symptomatic patients and implementing rigorous infection control precautions, and keep in mind that all of this takes time and resources. So, if a practice doesn’t have the space to manage people with respiratory symptoms they will not simply turn them away, they will have processes in place to refer patients appropriately, be that to a nearby practice or a local GP-led respiratory clinic.
“Practices must have in place strong measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 to avoid patients, GPs and staff contracting the virus and being forced to isolate. If GPs and general practice teams members do come down with COVID-19 they will have to miss days of work and that can have a huge impact on the local community. Once again, I say to Premier McGowan to please get behind GPs and general practice teams because we have been on the frontline of this pandemic for two-and-a-half-years, and we don’t deserve any more veiled criticism.”
This RACGP resource has been developed to support GPs and general practice teams in providing care to people with respiratory symptoms.