Gold Coast Medical Leaders Urge Community Not To Ignore Their Health
Don't ignore symptoms
The director of Gold Coast Private Emergency Care Centre (ECC) is pleading with the community not to neglect their own health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency medicine specialist Dr Anthony Padowitz works across the public and private sectors and said there had been a big drop in emergency department presentations across the board.
It's a trend that also has General Practitioners (GPs) concerned, with the director of Gold Coast Primary Health Network, Dr Lisa Beecham, seeing late presentations for cancers as patients are worried about attending a clinic.
Doctors want to remind people of the dangers of 'putting your health on hold' and reassure people that it is safe to visit a GP practice or hospital.
“In recent months, we have observed a drop-off in the number of people presenting at our emergency departments for treatment, a trend also noted among GPs and allied health professionals,” Dr Padowitz said.
“Based on feedback from those patients who do present, we think that the trend is driven by two factors - people are concerned about catching COVID-19, or do not want to be a burden on the system during the pandemic."
Dr Padowitz explained why it's important not to ignore you health at this time:
- Not seeking treatment until the last minute actually puts a strain on the system - if we can treat something earlier, it is better for everybody.
- We want to reassure the community that it is safe, and advisable, to visit a hospital, should you be experiencing a medical emergency.
- We have plenty of protocols in place to ensure people are kept safe and away from those presenting with respiratory symptoms.
Dr Beecham, who practices at Robina Town Medical Centre, said patients were being screened and those with respiratory symptoms were being managed over Telehealth or at specialised clinics.
"Your trusted GP knows your health care needs and is perfectly placed to advise the best course of action for your individual situation," she said.
"I have seen late presentations for cancers as the patients were worried about coming into a medical practice, and some are missing regular blood checks for things like heart disease or diabetes.
"While it is understandable some patients have been frightened about the risk of contracting COVID-19, doctors in General Practice and in the hospitals are taking excellent care to ensure these spaces are cleaned regularly, social distancing is in place, and patients that are a potential risk are being sent to the appropriate clinics."
Dr Padowitz said Queenslanders had done an outstanding job maintaining social distancing and dramatically reducing the spread of COVID-19, but warned it was still vital that people sought medical advice and treatment should a health concern arise.
He said ignoring or postponing medical attention for what may be a critical undiagnosed health issue was dangerous.
“All too often we see individuals present at our emergency department with a complaint that, had it been ignored, might have led to serious longer-term repercussions," said Dr Padowitz.
"At the height of the pandemic, presentations to Gold Coast Private's ECC were down 30 per cent.
"Even now, we are still treating about 15 per cent fewer people than before the pandemic - a trend that is being experienced across both public and private sectors and one that is dangerous for public health.
"Fortunately, the number of patients presenting with chest pain remains normal, and we are seeing an understandable drop in injuries due to restrictions on sport and outdoor activities.
"The worrying trend is the drop in patients presenting with things like abdominal pain and chronic illness. This is especially evident in diabetic patients and we have seen some cases where the patient is very ill by the time they arrive at hospital."
Gold Coast Private Gynaecologist Dr Graeme Walker, who also works in the public system, has also seen people delaying or refusing treatment.
"I triaged multiple patients with post menopausal bleeding, which is a potential sign of endometrial cancer, and we have had an alarming number refuse to come to hospital for further investigations or treatment," said Dr Walker.
"We need people to understand that their health simply can not be put on hold, despite what level of lockdowns we may go into. The consequences can be dire."
Gold Coast Private acting general manager David Seton said that the hospital had taken a number of steps to protect patients, staff, doctors and visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are conducting patient screening and temperature checks on everyone who presents at our hospital," he said.
"We have also implemented strict social distancing protocols in line with health authority advice.
“We urge anyone who may be putting off seeking medical advice or treatment, please contact your appropriate health professional, and if it’s an immediate concern, Gold Coast Private Emergency Department is open, safe, and here for your care.”
If you are unsure whether you need medical attention, contact Gold Coast Private's Emergency Care Centre on (07) 5530 0800.
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