Time to muster all health resources to quell COVID-19

Australia is entering its gravest health crisis in a century and must confront the challenge with all the 21st century knowledge and resources it can muster, the Consumers Health Forum said today.

“Essential for success in quelling the virus and community fear will be ensuring effective and accessible care and releasing prompt and authoritative information to guide the public,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“We urge the Federal Government to further expand access to telehealth services covered by Medicare for all patients, not just those being screened for potential COVID-19 infection, in order to maintain non-pandemic related health services and reduce time in crowded waiting rooms.  All patients need to be able to consult their GP or other practice team members, such as practice nurses, remotely.

“Yesterday’s announced extensions to telehealth to midwives, more GPs and certain specialists are essential for those at risk of COVID-19 and are welcome. 

“However, as social distancing is generally encouraged and social isolation enforced for many, it is also important that the community has appropriate ways to safely access ongoing healthcare.

“We support the AMA’s communique which states that expanded telehealth medical services are yet to be fully optimised.

“There is still much public confusion and more work to be done to disseminate crisp, credible and timely information. People should only go to sources of authority for their information and there needs to be more public information on measures to be taken to counter the virus spread in at-risk communities.

“We have recently proposed that governments should consider transferring elective surgery patients from public to private hospitals to free up public beds for the expected influx of COVID patients, as the AMA is suggesting. 

“CHF agrees with the call for strong medical leadership and we believe that would be enhanced with active consumer input and cooperation in ensuring the vital information reaches as many people as possible.  We are committed to assisting getting the right message out on issues like social distancing and to ensuring vulnerable communities such as First Nations People in remote Australia get the priority they need.

 “We wait with keenness for further guidance and further announcements on aged care responses which have been slow in coming.

“We support the AMA’s call for the recruitment of retired or semi-retired doctors and other health workers and reassigning healthcare workers and medical students to clinical roles provided patient safety and clinical governance standards were maintained,” Ms Wells said.




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Mark Metherell

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