Title Elective surgery a ‘complex issue’ as GPs continue to face PPE shortage Degree of recognition National Media name/outlet News GP Media type Web Country/Territory Australia Date 23/04/20 Description Associate Professor Mark Morgan, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care (REC–QC), has welcomed the reopening of elective surgery, given the significant knock-on effect delays can have not only for patients themselves, but throughout the healthcare system.
‘I would be very keen to make sure that decisions on which elective procedures go ahead are made on a patient need, not on who can afford it,’ Associate Professor Morgan told newsGP.
‘The national stockpile of PPE needs to be effectively controlled and used across all of the places in the country where it’s needed, particularly general practice and [the] community. I think there’s a real danger if this isn’t managed properly and [hope] that isn’t taken over by purely economic considerations from the private health industry.’
While large supplies of PPE have reportedly been distributed through Primary Health Networks (PHNs), Associate Professor Morgan said a significant shortage remains for GPs.
‘We hear huge concern from GP colleagues that availability is patchy and one week there’s an availability of masks but a lack of availability of gowns or eye protection,’ he said.
‘PPE is a complete kit; you can’t have one bit of the kit and not the next bit and go, “yeah, we’ve got an abundance here”. You need all of it.
‘I would hope that there’s real-time monitoring of availability of the full kit of PPE and where it’s needed before we get widespread relaxing of rules around elective surgery.
‘I certainly know locally that people want to actually physically see or actually have it hands-on, rather than just the promise that it’s available.’
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that on a global scale, ‘the worst is yet ahead of us’.
‘Easing restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country,’ Dr Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing in Geneva on Monday. ‘So-called lockdowns can help to take the heat out of a country’s epidemic.
‘Early data suggests that a relatively small percentage of the populations may have been infected. Not more than 2–3%.’
But Associate Professor Morgan said those figures, given our limited understanding of COVID-19, are likely wrong.
‘You might find that 1% or 2% that’s being quoted is actually the false positive rate of the test rather than the actual rate of who has really got antibodies,’ he said.
‘You might have a percentage of people with antibodies, but until we know whether [people with] antibodies are protected, then you can’t say that anyone is immune from the risk of infection. So there’s a vast proportion of the population that is still at risk.
‘The prediction for Australia is that if we can keep the numbers small enough that public health departments can contain sporadic outbreaks … and allow us to relax some of the social distancing rules and some of the economic shutdown that’s happened.
‘But it’s very easy to exceed the ability of public health to manage once we have simultaneous outbreaks in different parts of a state.’
Producer/Author Anastasia Tsirtsakis Persons Mark Morgan