AMA urges people to continue visiting their doctor for usual care

The AMA is urging people to keep a close watch on their ongoing health care and maintenance, and to not allow the ongoing Covid-19 crisis to prevent this crucial healthcare activity.

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said that fear and concern over COVID 19 should not make people ignore their everyday health.

“People need to continue seeing their doctor, in person or via telehealth, for existing conditions and for regular health maintenance,” Dr Bartone said.

“The AMA is very concerned that some Australians are putting off seeing their doctor or getting a test, investigation, or immunisation due to fears of contracting COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 fear is understandable, but for some people it could mean that a medical condition like cancer or heart disease will go undetected.

“The consequences of not seeing your doctor for usual care could be life-threatening for many patients.

“The failure to be able to monitor patients with existing conditions could lead to their conditions getting much worse.

“If conditions are not controlled, patients could end up with unplanned visits to hospitals or, in some cases, lifelong or life-threatening complications.

“Type 2 Diabetes, for example, is easily manageable in general practice. But if it is left untreated, it can lead to weight gain, worsening eyesight, circulatory issues, and ultimately could result in blindness or amputation.

“Failure to get children immunised may mean they pay a heavy price down the track by being left exposed to horrible diseases likes measles.”

Dr Bartone said that COVID-19 is a serious illness, but everyone needs to understand that failing to see their doctor or failing to get the test or investigation their doctor has requested can have just as serious, if not more serious, ramifications for their health.

“It is clear that people are putting off seeing their doctor, or not going at all,” Dr Bartone said.

“We are already seeing particular concerning significant reductions in investigative diagnostic tests, including skin cancer biopsies and cervical cytological screening.

“This means we are missing the vital diagnosis of conditions such as cancer, endocrine disorders, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, and nutritional deficiencies.

“Social distancing is really important, but a visit to the doctor must remain an essential part of our everyday lives.

“Australia’s medical practices have adapted quickly and sensibly to the challenges that COVID-19 has created.

“Strict infection control measures including phone triaging and, in some cases, separate clinic entrances and exits, have been deployed.

“GPs and other medical specialists are using telehealth to treat patients who do not require a face to face visit.

“If you do need to see your doctor face to face, waiting rooms around the country have adapted to cope with the requirements of health authorities to keep people safe.

“Chairs have been spaced 1.5 metres apart, magazines and communal toys have been removed, and separate areas for suspected COVID-19 patients have been established.

“Patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms are being directed to call ahead and not to drop in to practices unannounced.

“Medical practices are doing everything they can to ensure that the chances of coming into contact with the virus are extremely low, if not negligible.

“If you notice a change in your own or a family member’s health, don’t put off seeking medical advice.

“This could be for any number of issues – from chest pain to a skin condition to unexplained dizziness. Your doctors are ready to support you.

“If you are sick, see your doctor.

“If you need a vaccination, see your doctor.

“If you have a regular scheduled check-up, see your doctor.

“If you are uncertain, you should call ahead.

“If you cannot see your usual GP or general practice, there will be another doctor who can see you.

“Don’t put off visiting your doctor until it is too late,” Dr Bartone said.

6 April 2020

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