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GPs open for business – but changing the way they see patients
24 March 2020

Bay of Plenty doctors (GPs) will be open for business, but consulting with more of their patients by phone, email and video while COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4 are in place to help reduce the spread of the virus.

People who are unwell and require face-to-face GP appointments will get them, but some appointments will be done remotely or, in some cases, deferred. Each general practice is developing a plan that will be communicated to patients this week.

The aim is to reduce the number of people physically entering general practices and triage those most in need of face-to-face care. People who have appointments with their GP over the next few days will be contacted to discuss whether a face-to-face appointment is needed.

“There is no suggestion that we stop seeing people altogether or that we will not see unwell patients. The aim is to reduce the number of people that have to physically enter the buildings,” says Fifth Avenue Medical Centre GP and co-chair of the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation Dr Luke Bradford.

“We ask that patients with existing appointments don’t phone their GPs to avoid clogging the phone system. Practices will be in touch with you as soon as they can.

“We must stress that GP surgeries are not closing down, or stopping services, but delivering them in a different way. If you are unwell you will still receive medical attention in a timely way.”

Flu vaccinations will continue to be available but delivered in a way that will avoid unnecessary interaction between patients.

Phone, email and video consultations are being rolled out by GPs across New Zealand and follows in the wake of Italy’s experience of COVID-19 which shows the virus was spreading in GP waiting rooms.

“In view of the Government’s suggested restrictions announced yesterday, we believe it is important to keep vulnerable patients safe by reducing the number of people in GP waiting rooms,” says Royal NZ College of GPs President Dr Samantha Murton.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, but we have spoken with many of our health sector colleagues and Māori partners, and we are confident this is the right action to take.

“We want patients to be assured that continuity of care will continue. These are extraordinary times and require extraordinary measures. We are at a crossroads. If we do not act immediately, we will lose an important opportunity to help control this virus and save lives.”

Last modified: 26 Mar 2020
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