January 29, 2020
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has welcomed the federal government’s announcement that one million face masks will be distributed to GPs in areas where stocks have been depleted by the bushfire response.
The N95 face masks, which are designed to prevent 95 per cent of small particles from entering the nose and mouth if fitted properly, will be provided to GPs nationwide via local Primary Health Networks.
The announcement follows RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon’s calls for the government to urgently open the nation’s emergency medical mask stockpile and make them available to general practice clinics across Australia.
He said the masks would make a real difference.
“Earlier this week I urged the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to take advantage of the emergency medical mask stockpile and make them available to GPs on the frontline doing all they can to stop the spread of this virus,” Mr Nespolon said.
“It is extremely positive news that the government has heeded that advice and acted swiftly to make these masks available.”
Dr Nespolon says the masks will help GPs in their vital role fighting the coronavirus.
“Every accredited general practice will have infection control processes in place to manage the risks of cross infection to protect staff and patients,” he said.
“This will include the use of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, gowns, and protective eye wear.
“There’s already a shortage of masks, due to the bushfires, and we don’t know if infections will continue for days or weeks ahead. So, providing these masks will bolster the resources available to our GPs.”
Mr Nespolon says that when faced with a disease outbreak, such as this one, the community naturally turns to general practice.
“GPs play a central role in providing essential health services to patients as well as in disease control, and we’ve dealt with viruses like this before,” he said. “GPs know what to do. We stand ready to fight if this virus spreads.
“There’s no cause for panic or alarm but the coronavirus needs to be taken seriously, and so once again I welcome the government’s announcement today that masks will be made available to GPs.”
People experiencing any signs of infectious disease, including fever, sweats or chills, should see their GP.
Such patients should call ahead and warn of their symptoms if have been in China or had close contact with someone who has been in China.
GPs should ask if patients showing such symptoms have travelled recently, and if so, where.