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Coronavirus - the real challenge

The biggest factor that will determine how we pull through this threat has less to do with what is happening in hospitals and more about what is happening in our communities. Unfortunately, we are currently following the same trajectory as other western countries who are already in crisis (see graph). Being relatively early in this pandemic, we have the benefit of comparing what has happened in China, and Hong Kong who have much lower rates of death compared to Italy, Iran, and South Korea. The US response is inadequate and Washington State is the new US epicentre. Spain and Germany are the next European countries to impose lockdowns as cases soar. We will lose our advantage if we don't act now.

For this to be effective, early action must include a unified strategy of self imposed isolation and minimising unnecessary social contact to slow the transmission. The cost of not doing so is apparent in Lombardy, Italy. The only way we will save lives is by shutting down on non essential services, closing schools and businesses as early as possible, and having everyone stay in the safety of their own homes. One day can make a huge difference.

So at Barwon Endocrinology we made the commitment to our colleagues to stand in solidarity with those who are calling for action to ensure we can cope with the wave of contagion. We are at risk of being caught asleep at the wheel if we carry on as if nothing is wrong.

We recognise there is a need to provide ongoing care and advice and feel we can do so using technology such as Telehealth. The government has allowed those with chronic conditions to have access to new MBS rebate item numbers which will allow us to continue to provide a service and stay open. 

We also recognise that the elderly as well as those with chronic conditions, including diabetes and coronary artery disease, are at high risk of succumbing to coronavirus infection. We have acted so as to keep our patients away from hospitals as much as possible and will therefore not be conducting face to face consultations until the situation improves. We do not know how long this will be at this stage. It will depend on how the community responds before the end of March. (written 14 March 2020)

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