AMA vocal as new Covid variant emerges

Australian Medical Association

AMA put the focus back on the need for dedicated national quarantine facilities and a more vigorous booster program as the new COVID-19 variant made its way to Australia.

The AMA said the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 underlined the need to develop a network of dedicated Commonwealth quarantine facilities – a call made by the AMA in September 2020.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said dedicated quarantine facilities were a necessary tool in efforts to combat the inevitable emergence of variants and to protect the community.

“While work on quarantine facilities has commenced in some states and territories, we are yet to see a nationally coordinated approach, which could provide Australia with a national asset of dedicated Commonwealth quarantine facilities,” Dr Khorshid said in a media statement.

“National Cabinet also needs to approach the roll out of booster doses with far more vigour. While the Commonwealth’s decision to proceed with a booster program is welcome, it has failed to adequately fund general practices to take a proactive approach to getting boosters into people’s arms.”

AMA Vice President, Dr Moy also told ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, general practice had seen a reduction in resourcing to deliver the booster vaccine.

“Resourcing for GPs to provide boosters has dropped by about 25 per cent and while that may not seem like a lot, it’s about $24 for each shot which is extremely expensive. For practices it has essentially been a loss-making exercise and they’ve done incredibly well to vaccinate the majority of population, but I’m getting a lot of responses that this is unsustainable for them.”

The AMA’s opinion was sought about the readiness of Australia to deal with a variant of concern and Dr Moy told ABC’s RN Drive, the decision by states like South Australia to bar international and interstate arrivals was a reasonable step to buy time while more is learnt about the virulence of Omicron and whether it can evade vaccines.

“Overall we need a good national approach and a more consistent approach based on science rather than having extremely different views across the different states which I think can undermine confidence because of the inconsistency.”

Dr Moy also amplified AMA advocacy on Studio 10, saying lessons learnt include needing authorities to act “hard and fast” on our behalf while we have uncertainties about Omicron; and getting “back to basics” using QR Codes, maintaining physical distancing, mask wearing and most importantly to get vaccinated.

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