THE doctors of Foster and Toora Medical Centres along with the South Gippsland Hospital would like to update our population on what we know and are currently doing locally with respect to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
This is an evolving narrative and as everyone can appreciate whatever is in place today is likely to change in the near future as more cases are identified.
This makes planning challenging.
It should be noted that at the time of writing there have not been any positive cases here although there have been lots of testing.
We will give weekly updates through The Mirror.
There is a lot of information that is available and we encourage readers to get educated from authoritative sources such as www.dhhs.vic.gov.au or www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorian-public-coronavirus-disease-covid-19, or try the federal government health website.
Things we know ….
COVID-19 is not something to ignore or take lightly. The ‘hype’ is justified. This is serious and has enormous potential to cause a lot of harm.
In China the death rate was 0.7%-3% and the predicted rate in Australia is 1-4% (in comparison the flu death rate is only 0.1%).
(We certainly hope that in time we are able to look back and say that it wasn’t as bad as predicted. If that is the case it will be as a result of all the efforts that are occurring now to facilitate that).
The symptoms are similar to the flu or to an upper respiratory tract infection. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath, and sore throat. (Muscle pain, fatigue, nasal congestion and a runny nose are less common, as is diarrhoea).
Most people will recover over a period of a week or two with simple pain relief and need little medical input. But they will need to self-isolate to limit spread of the virus.
However, some will not recover quickly; particularly vulnerable are the elderly. Increasing shortness of breath and fever from lung disease (Pneumonitis) can develop, usually after the first week of illness and the patient can become very unwell needing aggressive medical management for weeks.
Overseas 20% of all cases got severe disease and, although many of these cases will have other pre-existing illnesses (such as heart disease, lung disease or chronic kidney or liver disease), others were affected for no known medical reason.
Our aged population is most at risk.
One prediction is that greater than 15% of over 80 year olds will die if infected.
A major part of our approach is to decrease the chances of spreading the disease to the elderly and at risk groups.
At the Medical Centre we have initiated a number of changes to reduce cross infections. And more are planned. We are taking this extremely seriously.
PLEASE, and most importantly, CALL AHEAD if you have respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat), and let the reception staff know. They will ask a few more questions and direct you appropriately. You may be asked to ring when you arrive and stay in the car until a doctor is free to see you. (If you have breathing difficulties then call 000 instead).
For other patients we are trying to decrease any potential exposure; for example, by not having patients sitting close to others in the waiting room. There are very few chairs there now.
We encourage people who have chronic pre-existing diseases or who are elderly to consider waiting in the car park after notifying reception staff of your arrival to diminish potential exposure.
We predict that there will be demand for more testing as case numbers grow. We have set up a drive-through facility to enable eligible/necessary testing to be done without entering the waiting room in the medical centre in the coming days, to protect our vulnerable patients. Watch this space; we will keep you informed; more to follow.
So what can you do?
The good news is there is quite a bit.
With a few changes, we list what the Victorian government has produced:
Ten ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus
- Wash hands often with soap and running water, for at least 20 seconds. Dry with paper towel or hand dryer.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
- Isolate yourself at home if you feel sick. If you take medication ensure you have adequate supplies.
- Phone your GP first if you need medical attention. They will tell you what to do. There is also a 24-hour hotline now available for anyone with a fever and respiratory symptoms at 1800 675 398
- Continue healthy habits: exercise, drink water, get plenty of sleep
- Don’t wear a face mask if you are well.
- Buy an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with over 60 per cent alcohol.
- Get the flu shot (available April). This will not affect Covid-19 of course but the combination of the two will cause more complications.
- Do not shake hands or kiss cheeks.
- We would add another few. Minimise your exposure to larger groups. Stay local. And look out for each other…see what you can do to help others at this time.
We quote: “There is now good evidence to support the notion that while a large volume of cases may be inevitable, the more they are distributed over time, the less likely this pandemic is to catastrophically overload our health system. Social distancing, travel restrictions, contact tracing and case isolation do work to delay the peak and reduce the total number of cases”. This will help protect our most vulnerable members of society.
A link for self-assessment regarding likelihood of your symptoms being COVID-19 is available through the DHHS website. www.dhhs.vic.gov.au. We encourage you to have a look at this. (There are links there also to ‘when to self isolate’, ‘what self-isolation means’, ‘who should be tested’, etc. It will help explain more fully some of the ideas expressed here and is constantly updated). This will also help explain why not everyone with only upper respiratory tract symptoms needs testing. There are strict criteria regarding who is to be tested and we have a responsibility to adhere to them.
We hope this has been helpful. It was never meant to be overly comprehensive.
Be informed, rather than anxious, and let us all help limit the effects of this virus.
Medical Centres aim to reduce infection risk
FOSTER and Toora Medical Centres have brought in measures aimed to reduce the risk of cross infection in response to the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Notices on the front doors and throughout the waiting areas of the two clinics advise that patients will notice “some changes”.
These include wide gaps between seating so that “patients [are] distanced from each other while waiting for their appointment”.
The notices also state that “the next patient for each doctor will be asked to wait on a chair outside their doctor’s room”.
The Foster Medical Centre’s desk now has “additional screening” in the form of clear plastic sheeting “in place to protect our reception staff from patients with respiratory illnesses”.
Patients with one or more symptoms such as a runny nose, a cough, a sore throat or fever are being asked to wear a face mask.
The medical centres have made disposable paper masks available on the reception desk alongside pump bottles of disinfectant hand-rub solution.
The traditional assortment of waiting room magazines has also been removed to further limit the exchange of germs.