The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), as part of its submission to the Senate Select Committee on coronavirus (COVID-19) — set up to inquire into the Australian Government’s response to the pandemic — has said that the government’s response has yielded some positive results, yet that more could have been done to support those general practitioners (GPs) helping to combat COVID-19. The government’s shortcomings, according to RACGP, included: not embedding GPs into the processes of response, clarity and consistency of messaging, and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We aren’t out of the woods yet but Australia has escaped the worst of the COVID-19 virus in comparison to many other countries around the world,” said Dr Harry Nespolon, President of RACGP. “However, much more could have been done in the early stages of the pandemic and as it progressed nationwide to support GPs on the frontline combating the COVID-19 virus.
“Because state and territory governments manage the health crisis response and the federal government has primary responsibility for general practice, GPs have not been properly embedded into the wider pandemic response,” Dr Nespolon said, calling for the role of frontline GPs to be “formally recognised in pandemic preparation, mitigation, response and recovery”.
Dr Nespolon also highlighted concern among the profession with some of the government’s messaging, which he described as inconsistent and confusing. “This pandemic has exposed challenges concerning different levels of government and agencies having different roles and responsibilities,” Dr Nespolon said. “GPs have expressed frustrations about different information on testing criteria and use of personal protective equipment across the country as well as inconsistent advice from politicians and a lack of cohesion between different jurisdictions.”
A key criticism of Dr Nespolon concerned a lack of resources needed to keep professionals and the public safe, which is presented as among the most pressing of the government’s response problems. “A shortage of personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks has been a major concern for many GPs,” Dr Nespolon said. “This is completely unacceptable and government needs to urgently supply personal protective equipment to general practices experiencing shortages. In future, we need superior distribution channels responsive to local requirements.”
RACGP outlines a number of other concerns and recommendations as part of its submission, which can be found here.
Submissions to the Select Committee on the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19 are now closed. The committee is expected to present its final report by 30 June 2022.
Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Yakobchuk Olena