The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has warned that now is not the time to throw blame at GPs and general practice teams for an over-stretched hospital system.
It comes following comments made by Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles that there has been an “absolute collapse in access to primary health care” with “many GPs” declining to see people with respiratory illnesses.
RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that GPs and general practice teams deserve better.
“Tomorrow is World Family Doctor Day, an important opportunity to reflect on the fact that GPs and general practice teams truly are the foundation of the nation’s health system,” she said.
“We are flat out delivering COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, and influenza vaccines, helping people who have delayed or avoided consultations and screenings during the pandemic and also dealing with rising rates of chronic disease, a mental health crisis, an ageing population, and more and more patients with multiple conditions who require complex, comprehensive, and ongoing care.
“Never before has the family doctor been so important, and yet we are facing a future where the long-term sustainability of general practice care is in jeopardy and GPs are being blamed for an over-stretched hospital system.”
The RACGP President said that each practice had to make careful decisions about managing patients in a pandemic.
“While some practices have the capacity to see patients with respiratory symptoms, the reality is that some do not,” she said.
“We cannot simply forget all we have learnt and implemented over the last few years and not protect our patients and our teams. Practices still need to triage symptomatic patients and implement infection control precautions such as physical distancing and use of personal protective equipment and this takes time and resources. Some practices just don’t have the space or people to manage this. What they do have are systems in place to refer patients appropriately, be that to a nearby practice or a local GP led respiratory clinic.
“The pandemic isn’t over, and COVID-19 must be taken extremely seriously. If COVID-19 spreads throughout a practice and GPs and staff are forced to isolate the ramifications for patients in that community can be dire. We must do everything we can to limit COVID-19 transmission at clinics in Queensland and throughout Australia because GPs are needed by our communities more than ever before.
“Now is not the time to throw blame at GPs and general practice teams, we are doing our best in very challenging circumstances and need the full support of all levels of government.”
This RACGP resource has been developed to support GPs and general practice teams in providing care to people with respiratory symptoms.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the essential role that GPs play in our communities; the numbers make it clear general practice does the heavy lifting.
GPs are delivering more services than ever – over 171.5 million services were delivered to 21.8 million patients across Australia from 2020-2021, a considerable increase from around 163 million services in the previous year. When it comes to vaccinations, GPs again are responsible for providing the vast majority of jabs, including over 50% of the 58 million COVID-19 vaccines administered to date, and 69% of influenza vaccines already administered this year.