Plan to let Covid-19 patients isolate at home will lead to burnout for health workers – GP


A Government proposal to allow Covid-19 patients to isolate at home will lead to burnout among the local doctors and nurses expected to monitor them, a south Auckland GP says.

Health Minister Andrew Little unveiled the new strategy on Thursday. It would see 90-95 cent of people with coronavirus treated in the community, instead of relocating them to a managed isolation and quarantine facility in line with current practice.

Little said such patients would be monitored daily by GPs and nurses. He said the new regime would be rolled out when vaccination rates were “satisfactory”.

Ministry of Health modelling shows there could be up to 5200 Covid cases a week in the Auckland and Northland regions alone, even with 90 per cent of the population vaccinated.

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Papakura GP Dr Primla Khar said she was concerned at the impact the proposal could have on south Auckland doctors, who were already under serious pressure.

“There is definitely going to be a higher burnout rate, not just for GPs, but nurses and support staff,” she said.

Papakura GP Dr Primla Khar says she is concerned at the impact the Government’s proposal to allow Covid-19 patients to isolate at home could have on south Auckland doctors who are already under serious pressure.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Papakura GP Dr Primla Khar says she is concerned at the impact the Government’s proposal to allow Covid-19 patients to isolate at home could have on south Auckland doctors who are already under serious pressure.

“If the Government wants primary healthcare to look after these patients it needs to put in place the support we will need.”

That would include better access to Covid-19 testing and support from DHBs and specialists for the increased workloads they would face, she said.

Health commentator and former Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said GPs would do the best they could, but he was concerned the Government was trying to pass the buck to primary healthcare providers.

“GPs are going to come under a lot of pressure and Covid-19 patients could overwhelm them because there isn’t the workforce capacity for this,” he said.

“It will be particularly hard in communities like south Auckland which have high healthcare needs.”

College of GPs president Dr Samantha Murton says it’s vital vaccination rates are increased. (File photo)

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

College of GPs president Dr Samantha Murton says it’s vital vaccination rates are increased. (File photo)

A report to Counties Manukau District Health Board in April by chief executive Margie Apa highlighted south Auckland’s shortage of GPs.

It showed it had “reached the limit of primary care capacity” in the face of a growing population and increased demand for services.

President of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs Dr Samantha Murton said the proposal would no doubt increase the workloads of primary healthcare doctors and their practices.

Murton said it was vital vaccination rates were increased before New Zealand reached the level of community transmission outlined in the Ministry of Health’s modelling, to ensure patients who did contract the virus were not as seriously affected.

The Government is planning for people with Covid-19 to self-isolate at home in future, rather than at managed isolation and quarantine facilities. (File photo)

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

The Government is planning for people with Covid-19 to self-isolate at home in future, rather than at managed isolation and quarantine facilities. (File photo)

Turuki Health Care chief executive Te Puea Winiata shared Murton’s concerns.

She said Turuki was already supporting whānau self-isolating at home, but needed to be offered more support to provide help in “significant outbreak situations”.

In a statement, Little said GPs wouldn’t be responsible for monitoring all Covid-19 positive cases in the community.

“They will be notified of positive cases and involved in initially assessing their health status, but if patients are low-risk, fully vaccinated and in good health, on-going monitoring may be by a service such as Health Line, staffed by people with clinical knowledge and working to a standard set of questions and observations.”



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