We have seen footage and read stories of the devastation Covid-19 has caused around the world. We’ve seen images of American doctors with deep groves on their faces from working long hours in protective masks. And we have seen footage of crowded makeshift hospitals set up in Italy to care for the overwhelming number of infected patients.
In Australia, the experience has been different. We have still felt the effects of Covid-19, but our government’s approach has taken us down a different path.
Medworld asked Australian doctors what the scene has been like in their hospitals and departments.
“we do not want to compromise the quality of care due to the pandemic”
Dr Kavya Kudithipudi, GP Registrar
Working in General Practice, I've seen a wide range of patient responses to the pandemic. Some people are very panicked; some are too complacent and some are neglecting other important health matters like immunisations and cervical screening due to fear of the virus. It is part of our role to educate patients in these situations.
Thankfully we can help many patients via Telehealth, with the assistance of technology and some pharmacies even doing home delivery of medications. When we identify that a patient needs to be seen in person for proper examination, we have been advising our patients that a face to face consultation is required. We do not want to compromise the quality of care due to the pandemic.
I am working in a large practice with a designated government respiratory clinic set up where Covid swab tests are being conducted. This has been a learning curve for everyone: doctors, nurses, reception, pathology lab collectors, practice management, etc., but I think we are doing a great job so far. We have an excellent team dedicated to ongoing learning and everyone is very supportive of one another.
We've also noticed a steep increase in anxiety and other mental health problems. We are trying to support these patients by discussing strategies to manage anxiety as well as their general health. If the patient is eligible, we can also arrange a Mental Health Treatment Plan which allows a patient to access several government-funded psychology sessions for more support.
“we have the best health care in the world”
Dr Chris Quirk, Consultant Cardiologist
Covid has affected us all, primarily with stress and anxiety about what may come. Fortunately, as I have always said, with some insight as I trained in the UK, we have the best health care in the world in Australia and are well prepared. Hopefully, it won’t all be needed! As you know, a lot of our elective work has been curtailed so a lot of us are quiet at present.
“patients cannot afford to wait a few months for the pandemic to play out”
Dr Raja Chaganti, Oncologist Registrar
Covid-19 has caused several challenges that are specific to oncology. A lot of the treatments that we give can compromise the immune system, which puts our patients at further risk of contracting Covid-19 and having a more severe infection or complications. Our patient demographic is usually in the older age group and they often have several other comorbidities or are simply quite unwell from their cancer. I'd go as far as to say oncology patients are one of the highest risk groups in the hospital.
We've had to be very strict with infection control, hygiene and screening measures before allowing patients into the cancer unit. Similar to other departments, we've implemented a lot of Telehealth consult where we can, however, there are still many situations where we need to see patients face to face, particularly if they are receiving chemotherapy. When we do need to see patients face to face, we are attempting to limit the number of hospital visits that are required of them.
We counsel all of our new patients who are about to start chemotherapy that the current environment makes therapy more risky than usual, however, as a department, we have ensured that we do not delay or alter our management plans, particularly for patients with curative intent. Unfortunately, the additional risks just have to be managed as many of the patients cannot afford to wait a few months for the pandemic to play out.
There's also been a learning curve with utilising technology to facilitate virtual meetings between departments, but we're getting the hang of this.
“we are up for the challenge”
Dr Amran Dhillon, Anaesthetics Registrar
My main role at present is as an anaesthetics registrar and we have been busy doing simulation training in preparation for managing Covid cases. The constant changes and updates as more information becomes available on Covid created heightened anxiety amongst workers. This is expected and right now we are just trying to support each other. Learning new techniques in such a short amount of time is difficult. Fortunately, doctors and our fellow healthcare professionals that work alongside us are adaptable. We are up for the challenge during what I call the ‘Covid crisis’.