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Supporting GPs To Manage COVID-19 Response

Helping to staff the community COVID-189 testing sites and assisting general practices to set up and manage virtual patient consulting are two focus areas for Health Hawke’s Bay, the region’s Primary Health Organisation.

More than a third of the organisation’s staff, including eight registered nurses and about the same number of support staff, had stepped away from their everyday work and into the clinical setting to man some of the community-based assessment centres (CBACs).

“We need to support our general practice staff, who are managing the sites on a roster system, as much as we can,” said Health Hawke’s Bay chief executive Wayne Woolrich.

It is also essential that general practices are assisted to set up and manage the technology that allows doctors to carry out patient consultations on-line, said Mr Woolrich.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and the Ministry of Health are recommending that where possible this method of patient consultation is preferred if the consultation does not require a physical examination.

Mr Woolrich said his team was working hard to support frontline primary care teams working long hours in general practices and pharmacies while also being rostered on at the CBACs.

“Primary care workers were already very busy before the COVID-19 crisis came along and now they’re coping with increased demand and having to change the way they work, by moving to virtual consultations, in a matter of days.”

The Health Hawke’s Bay team is providing the specialised software and support that enables virtual consultations, and linking general practices with on-line forums and information that will help them adjust to the platform.

Subhead: Virtual consultations – what it means for patients

“Our local family general practices continue to be available to provide care for you,” says Hastings Health Centre GP and Health Hawke’s Bay medical director Dr Louise Haywood. “What we really don’t want is for people to put off calling their doctor. If you wait for three weeks to contact us about something relatively simple, it may not be simple by then.”

At a practical level, the way to contact your doctor has not changed. “Contact your doctor for an appointment as you normally would,” says Dr Haywood. “You will be phoned by a doctor or nurse from your general practice, at which time a decision can be made on whether you need to go into the

surgery and if so, when; or whether your issue can be handled by a phone conversation or via an internet consultation.”

The system is designed to help with physical distancing during this time of COVID-19, so that no more people than necessary are in a doctor’s surgery. “This is technology that some general practices were already using, for things like talking to their rural patients. So it is not new and we are very happy that it works well and all of the privacy and security protocols are in place.”


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