General practice teams have had to make some huge changes over the past six weeks and they have more than risen to the challenge.
From triaging patients to find out how best to treat them and virtual consulting, to holding specific clinics at different times, they have put in place new systems and technology that will continue to make a positive difference to how patients and their doctors work together to manage health.
“One of the most critical is the implementation of gold-standard infection control practices,” says Hastings Health Centre doctor and Health Hawke’s Bay medical director Dr Louise Haywood.
“By consulting with patients on-line or by phone, we have dramatically lowered the number of people in surgery waiting rooms. That lowers the risk of illness spread, and has the extra bonuses of lowering waiting times for patients and assisting those who have transport issues.
“People needing to see their doctor in-person can be very confident that all of our practices have systems in place that will keep them safe.”
Carlyle Medical Centre Acting Practice Manager Rowena Warren says they are continuing to provide care for their patients with almost all consultation happening via phone or video.
“We are still here every day to help our patients, it’s just the way we’re working that has changed. We ask that our patients call us with any health concerns and we will give clear instructions on whether we will treat you via phone or video, or bring you into the clinic for a face-to-face consult,” Mrs Warren says.
Like all practices, Carlyle Medical Centre is taking all precautions necessary to ensure staff, patients and families are kept safe.
Mrs Warren says appointments in the clinic are booked 30 minutes apart to allow for a thorough cleaning of surfaces before and after patients. Well and unwell patients are kept apart with well-health appointments for things like immunisations held first thing in the morning.
“Our staff are also taking their own temperatures twice a day and wearing scrubs while working. At the end of the day we change into street clothes and wash our scrubs and ourselves before interacting with our families – we’ve got this process down to a fine art.”
Central Medical Practice Manager Victoria Speers says her team has also coped well with new technology. They are doing more than half of their consultations virtually – something they had not tried prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will likely to continue to use phone consults in the future as there is definitely a place for it. It means patients who don’t have transport to get into a clinic can still receive medical advice and with e-prescriptions we can now email their prescription straight to the pharmacist.”
Dr Haywood is urging people to not put off calling their doctor if they are unwell. “There are reports coming in from around the country of people putting off calling their doctor and becoming seriously unwell as a result. Please do not do that; your general practice is ready, willing and able to give you the very best care. I’d argue that the way we are doing things now means the care is better than ever.”