COVID-19 is challenging the capacity of our nation
I write to you today, as I am to every practising Doctor in Australia, to thank you for all your efforts in helping the nation during these extremely challenging and confronting times, and to acknowledge what you, your colleagues, your patients, and indeed your loved ones are currently experiencing.
COVID-19 is challenging the capacity of our nation to respond to serious illness in a never before seen way. Despite resounding pressure and uncertainty, the medical profession is responding with resilience - a resilience that will be tested time and time again, and no doubt will be needed for some time yet.
Governments have worked very hard to respond, but the virus remains one step ahead of them.
The Federal system has been challenged. Governments have confused the public, and been unable to persuade enough of the public to adopt sufficient social isolation measures.
Accordingly, the AMA has called on governments to adopt deeper social isolation measures than currently in place. Only those people essential to defeating COVID-19 should now be at work. Those in non-essential work should isolate at home, as should tertiary students.
Despite the debate around clear evidence, the suspension of school classes must also be on the table as an imminent measure.
Click here to see the AMA media release.
The AMA has also called on governments to urgently solve access barriers to personal protective equipment (PPE).
The additional PPE announcement by the Federal Government is welcome, but much more is needed. Recognising a global supply shortage, and the need for the medical profession to appropriately manage available supply sustainably, governments nonetheless must resolve PPE access barriers.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has been responsive to the AMA’s proposals to extend telehealth use. By the end of this week, I hope to settle with Minister Hunt an agreement for telehealth to be available to any General Practitioner or other medical specialist to see any patient for any consultation (that does not require a physical examination).
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has also announced measures to support small business employment, which will assist many medical practices to retain their staff and maintain practice viability. I have raised with the Government the need for further measures for medical practices, which I hope to progress in coming days.
While our offices of the AMA and the Medical Journal of Australia are now closed, and staff are working from home, we are publishing information and frequently asked doctor questions about COVID-19 on the AMA website, which you can access by clicking here. A dedicated “ask AMA” email box has also been established at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The AMA will continue to represent the interests of the medical profession and patients in shaping the nation’s response to COVID-19.
If governments actively support the medical profession in leading the battle against COVID-19 during this unprecedented national health crisis, more Australians will avoid the awful consequences of this pandemic.
Please keep as safe as you can. Look after your own health, particularly your mental health and wellbeing, and keep supporting each other during these most challenging of times.
Dr Tony Bartone
Published: 27 Mar 2020