Media Statement: Gps Are Major Players In H1n1 Influenza 09

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3rd July 2009, 06:10pm - Views: 397





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MDP 84  GPO Box 9848  Canberra ACT 2601

Telephone:  (02) 6289 8408  Facsimile:  (02) 6285 1994


CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER


Professor Jim Bishop AO

MD MMed MBBS FRACP FRCPA

Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer



MEDIA STATEMENT


3rd July 2009


GPs are major players in H1N1 Influenza 09


Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, has described the national response

to combating H1N1 Influenza 09 (Human Swine Flu) as appropriate, proportionate and

successful, following criticisms by a Victorian GP in the latest on-line edition of the Medical

Journal of Australia (MJA).


Professor Bishop said he was sorry the author of the paper felt that GPs were unprepared or

ill equipped to cope with H1N1 Influenza 09 because many GP divisions have put

considerable time and effort into their own pandemic planning and he would give much more

credit to the medical profession for their awareness and appropriate actions in dealing with

the infection.


"I personally have had continual contact with doctors and medical associations since the

outbreak began," Professor Bishop said.


"I have sent letters to GPs, held roundtables with peak GP organisations, there is a special

health professionals page on the heatlhemergency website and we share information with

Medical associations and Colleges on a regular basis.  


"In addition, from very early on, state and territory health departments have been working

closely with their GP organisations to ensure primary care providers are prepared and

equipped to manage H1N1 Influenza 09 in the community. 


As well as these measures the Australian government has provided $4 million to the

Australian General Practice Network to work in partnership with the Royal Australian

College of Practitioners (RACGP) and these organisations are involved in programs

specifically tailored to GP needs and training.


"I recognise that doctors, especially GPs, are bearing the brunt of this disease with a huge

influx of patients who are worried about having H1N1 09, and as the pandemic phases have

changed, doctors have had to keep up with the new testing and antivirals policies that have

changed from CONTAIN phase to PROTECT phase.


"As well, while all GPs would have had their own supplies of personal protective equipment

we have responded to their need for more masks and gloves and these have been released

from the National Medical Stockpile as quickly as possible for distribution to general

practices through state and territory health departments.


"GPs have been doing a phenomenal job and to suggest they would not cope if the H1N1

Influenza 09 infection had been more virulent ignores the professionalism we have seen from

GPs and their organisations."


Professor Bishop said that the suggestion in the MJA paper that antivirals were overused and

that GPs had missed many positive H1N1 09 cases in the early stages of the outbreak because

they were only looking at people with an overseas travel history, also undervalues the

professionalism and clinical judgment of doctors.


"During the DELAY phase it was important to identify travellers as a likely source of

infection, but doctors faced with a patient with influenza-like-illness would be expected to

use, as always, their clinical judgment and treat and test as required.  


"When border measures were put in place it was widely discussed that these were only meant

to try to delay the entry of the virus into the country and that doctors would have known to

look out for the infection, regardless of a patient's travel history.

 

'The antiviral policy has changed in different phases of the outbreak and, on expert advice, it

was agreed that in CONTAIN phase antivirals would be appropriate for treatment of in the

identified cases and for the contacts of cases to reduce population spread and to dampen

down the number of people who could be affected, whereas later in the course of the outbreak

it is more appropriate to target those with severe disease and those most at risk of poor

outcomes.


"Extensive use of antivirals helped keep the infection contained for much longer than would

otherwise be. The rationale for dampening down such spread is that the volume of cases

requiring care at health services can be reduced as can be the numbers of people ultimately

experiencing poor outcomes.


"Had the disease been more virulent we would have recommended different actions.  Clearly

the new pandemic phase PROTECT, developed with GPs and others, was proportionate and

appropriate with an unprecedented level of national coordination and cooperation," Professor

Bishop said.


"There will be a lot to learn from the national response to this disease and improvements to

put in place for any future exercise of this magnitude, but I am confident that health

professionals in our hospitals and general practices will act appropriately and in the best

interests of their patients."


Media contact:  Kay McNiece 0412 132 585






   















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