Epworth HealthCare emergency doctors and GPs are concerned people with serious health conditions are not seeking treatment due to fears about COVID-19.

Presentations to Epworth Richmond’s Emergency Department were down 24 per cent between April and June, compared with the same time last year.

In July emergency department presentations were at normal levels, in part driven by patients coming in with COVID, suspected COVID, or for mandated screening because of potential exposure to COVID.

Emergency Department Director Associate Professor Ron Sultana said it’s business as usual but fears some of the sickest Victorian people aren’t getting help.

'The number of people coming to Epworth Richmond’s Emergency Department, experiencing chest pain or having a heart attack, is down by five percent on this time last year,’ Assoc Prof Sultana said.

‘Sadly, for some people, delaying treatment could potentially become life-threatening.”

Epworth Freemasons GP Clinic has also seen a drop in face-to-face consultations, particularly during Stage 4 restrictions.

Dr Luke Dunne said some people have switched to telehealth consultations, rather than visiting their GP.

“Telehealth is useful for routine appointments like renewing prescriptions of following up test results during a pandemic,” Dr Dunne said.

“People need to remember that it’s still okay to visit your GP”.

Since the start if the COVID-19 pandemic, Epworth has been part of Victoria’s state-wide.

As part of its response, Epworth has implemented a ‘no visitor’ policy across its Melbourne hospitals. Exceptions will be made for essential caregivers or in special circumstances.

In line with DHHS guidelines, all elective surgery and maternity patients now undergo pre-admission COVID-19 swab testing and then have to self-isolate in the days leading up to their booking.

Assoc Prof Sultana from Epworth Richmond urged people not to delay seeking treatment.

“Our strict protocols, including use of personal protective equipment in the ED and through our hospitals, are in line with guidelines set out by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services.

‘We know when people delay treatment it can have a serious impact so I would urge anyone experiencing potentially life-threatening symptoms such has chest pain, severe shortness of breath or exacerbation of existing medical conditions to come to hospital top seek appropriate treatment.”


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