GPs key in event of Pandemic says ANU

By Adam Coleman

In the event of a pandemic influenza outbreak, general practitioners would be crucial to prevent a large number of Australian deaths recent research from the Australian National University (ANU) has revealed.

Australia’s health and emergency services have descended on Brisbane to stage ‘Exercise Cumpston’ – Australia’s largest ever health crisis simulation, which will test Australia’s preparedness for responding to pandemic influenza including the widespread human-to-human transmission of a new virus strain.

GPs would play a key role in preventing a pandemic that could otherwise spread rapidly and cross continents in days, says ANU Medical School research team member, Professor Marjan Kljakovic.

“If an influenza pandemic hit Australia tomorrow we would be under-prepared,” Professor Kljakovic says.
The National Health and Medical Research Council funded research revealed some obstacles for GPs, participating in what needs to be a whole-of-health community approach to an outbreak, he says.

“There are roadblocks for GPs. Some of these are to do with regulations.

“How accountable will GPs be for patient care in the altered environment of a pandemic?  Will they be able to delegate some of their work to others?” Professor Kljakovic says.

The researchers developed plans to help GPs prepare their practices for a pandemic, including a group-learning exercise and needs-assessment tool along with encourages practices to work together to formulate a pandemic influenza response.

According to the study, a pandemic would deplete doctor’s numbers and stretch the medical workforce dealing with increasingly sick patients. In answer to this researchers have called for new funding models to support different clinical practice in a pandemic situation.

 “Modelling for the study showed us that unless we embrace new models of care in a pandemic, about 150 non-influenza-related emergency cases would not be treated at the height of a pandemic each day in a city like Canberra – which could raise the death rate substantially,” Professor Kljakovic said.

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