‘Government needs to come clean to frontline health workers’


QUEENSLAND doctors say they do not have the protective gear they need to keep them safe against the deadly coronavirus, a shock survey has revealed

More than 70 per cent of local doctors at the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis do not have sufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and some medical facilities have resorted to making their own hand sanitiser, according to the survey by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Queensland.

AMA Queensland President Dr Dilip Dhupelia said the online survey revealed 84 per cent of doctors were not confident they would be able to access sufficient and appropriate PPE as they continued to work on the COVID-19 frontline and more than 53 per cent had dug into their own pockets to buy masks and other protective equipment for themselves and their staff.

A patient with suspected coronavirus is transported to hospital. Picture: Gordon McComiskie
A patient with suspected coronavirus is transported to hospital. Picture: Gordon McComiskie

"By 8am this morning, more than 625 doctors had responded to our online survey which was posted at 4pm on Monday," Dr Dhupelia said.

"These are both private and public doctors as well as those working in GP clinics in the community - the very people who are putting their own safety on the line to care for and treat Queenslanders.

"While we acknowledge that the COVID-19 crisis has entered our lives very quickly, clear guidance on where and when and how much PPE is available is crucial for frontline doctors and nurses."





Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in QLD



One GP wrote in the survey: "We are nearly out of surgical masks (which is all the PPE

we have) and requests for supply have been declined. We are also out of hand sanitiser and making our own (with limited success)."

Another surveyed doctor said: "There's a lot of anxiety in my workplace (operating theatres) about PPE supply. Also concerns that management may not be prioritising PPE supply. I think if staff had better communication about PPE supply, it would reduce anxiety levels and improve trust."

Dr Dhupelia said Queensland Health repeatedly assured AMA it had a stockpile of PPE and no healthcare workers would be put at risk when treating patients with COVID-19, but one frontline doctor wrote: "It is painful to see and hear officials talk about PPE supply not being an issue, while on the frontline in my Emergency Department, we are being told to wear the same mask for several shifts in a row (providing not high-risk patients) in order to preserve PPE."

"The Government needs to come clean to Queensland's health workers," Dr Dhupelia said. "They have every right to expect and receive up-to-date, consistent and clear information about where and when they can access the protective equipment required to do their jobs safely.

"Transparent communication about PPE supply and distribution is essential to instil confidence and reduce anxiety to our essential front line doctors and nurses."




AMAQ wishlist for both State and Federal Government


1. Information overload

With the current overload of information, there's an urgent need for consistent, succinct and contemporaneous communication on COVID-19 from a single trusted source to both the community and healthcare workers.


2. Safety first

The supply and distribution of personal protection equipment (PPE) is a critical issue for the medical profession. There is an urgent need for transparency on allocation and clearer messaging to all health care workers regarding access to and distribution of PPE - Information that is crucial for doctors and nurses to continue to the manage the pandemic. PPE supply must be at the heart of all health sector planning.


3. Telehealth

Doctors have strongly been lobbying for Medicare rebates to be provided for all telehealth consultations and welcome the introduction of this service as an affordable, safe means for people to receive health care. However, the announcement in recent days of Medicare item numbers for telehealth services for GPs as well as non-GP Specialists has created confusion amongst patients as well as doctors. The Government needs to clearly communicate to the medical sector as well as the wider community how patients can access telehealth services. Do all GPs and non-GP Specialists offer it? How do patients know where it's offered? Which rebates can doctors claim and starting from when?


4. Private Hospitals to free up public hospital beds to cope with COVID-19

A partnership between the private and public health systems was announced to make 34,000 extra beds available for the fight against COVID-19. AMA has been strongly advocating for an agreement to be reached. Now, however, doctors and patients need clear guidance on the role of the private health system in relieving the pressure on emergency and ICU capacity in public hospitals during the COVID-19 response. Who should present for treatment at private hospitals and under what circumstances?


5. Financial support for practices

Federal and State government, the Australian Taxation Office, and the banking sector have put out a number of measures to provide financial support to small and medium size businesses in these challenging times. AMA strongly supports the new measures. However, the length and fine print of the package make it difficult for Queenslanders and thousands of doctors who run small businesses (their practices) to understand the measures and how to access them. A simple break down of how the measures will help small and medium businesses and a guide on where to go to access the help they need would ensure Queenslanders and doctors who are busy treating patients can also access the help they need.

Originally published as 'Government needs to come clean to frontline health workers'

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