Coronavirus - Where are we now?
By Dr Adam Roberts (updated 1 September 2020)
We have been very lucky with the relatively few cases of Coronavirus deaths in Australia. Credit must be given to a government who has acted swiftly to put in place social restrictions to help businesses continue in a limited capacity. Individually Australians have, in the majority, made a strong effort to follow recommendations making it easier to contain the spread of infection and we are in a very fortunate position compared to other countries. Other countries in every continent are still fighting a horrifying situation with hundreds of thousands people dying and many more suffering from less severe but potentially longer lasting side effects.
It seems likely we may be living with a grumbling presence of coronavirus in our communities much in the same way we live with influenza. It's important to understand the deadlier nature of coronavirus compared to influenza and the way it can be spread through people who may have no symptoms. A number of cases have no known contact with overseas travellers or other known source indicating that community spread is happening. This suggests that we will be less likely to eradicate it completely. Vaccination is still on the distant horizon and large scale vaccination will have it's challenges that will need be solved. Delivery will likely be staged rather than everyone being vaccinated all at once. Availability of different vaccines will be staggered and some may prove more effective than others. Permanent immunity seems less likely for the majority of those who have had the virus so vaccination may hold the key to herd immunity. But we still have much to learn.
This can be very unnerving for those who are vulnerable in our communities and will likely change the way we interact, where we choose to live, and how we work for the next few years of our lives. Many have been impacted financially and the economic environment has become less certain. The toll this has left on our mental health services is still yet to be fully appreciated.
There is a feeling amongst some that we just need to "get on" and try to go back to pre coronavirus business to stop our economy suffering anymore. This is inevitable as financial pressure on business owners are left in the dilemma of sinking their business or swimming in shark-infested waters. The media will always show extremes and I personally think the answer lies somewhere in the middle where we adapt our social and business practices and remain fully aware of the risks we pass on to others. That means hand sanitisers will become a part of normal life, masks will be the norm, and handshakes and hugs may play less of a role in our interaction with others. I have a huge appreciation for the hard work that I see businesses putting in place to keep cafes, supermarkets, restaurants, stores, and other services running in this environment. Even after months of isolation, I am inspired by those who have been so disciplined in keeping socially distanced. In my interactions with some of my patients over the internet, I have felt the mental burden it has had especially on those who live alone and who haven't been able to see family members as often.
We are committed to keeping you as safe as we possibly can an we are pleased to report that we will be allowing face to face visits with those who choose to come in and see us in person. It's important to understand that we are more concerned for the safety of our patients who are far more vulnerable due to conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The elderly are at even greater risk. And as the clinic is in a hospital, we must consider the risk we are placing upon our clients. While there are some things we can't do over an internet consultation, there is much that we can do and we will continue to offer Telehealth appointments as long as the government provides support through MBS item numbers for these consultations allowing you to receive government assisted rebates. We have been reassured to date that these provisional rebates will continue through to September at least. We will update this as information as it comes to hand.
At Barwon Endocrinology we have put in place the following rules to keep you as safe as possible:
1. Your temperature will be checked as you come into the hospital
2. You will be asked to hand-sanitise
3. Mask wearing is mandatory
4. You will be asked if you have had any suggestive symptoms or contact with a known or suspected case of COVID-19
5. The waiting room will have a limit of 6 people at any one time
6. Waiting areas have been created in the hall outside the clinic and the floor foyer to help with social distancing.
7. We encourage non cash payments to reduce cash handling
8. If we are notified that someone has tested positive, we will assist Department of Health in tracing of contacts by providing clinic schedules.
9. We will encourage you to have your COVIDsafe activated on your phone
Finally, if you're income has been significantly affected through loss of employment please let us know. We can make adjustments to our billing schedule to allow us to continue to provide you affordable care. Please understand our expenses have increased rather than decreased during this time so we need to ensure there is viability for our business to be able to continue to provide for you and others.
We look forward to our next appointment with you.
Stats taken as of 24 Aug 2020 from Victoria DHHS website.