Doctors call for free 'over the phone' corona virus checks
GOLD Coast doctors short on face masks and protective gear in the wake of the coronavirus want the Federal Government to help cover the cost of over-the-phone consultations.
GPs are charging potential virus suffers between $40-80 for Skype or phone call sessions because they cannot be claimed through Medicare.
To counter that, the Gold Coast Medical Association and Gold Coast General Practitioners want a Medicare rebate introduced for all over-the-phone consults.
Medical clinics on a limited supply of protective gear have also reported thefts of the masks, with some doctors forced to charge extra fees of about $20 for having to don the in-demand supplies.
"GPs have been actively encouraging people to be treated over phone to prevent any potential spread," General Practice Gold Coast chair Dr Katrina McLean said.
"We are seeing an increase in cases where people have travelled overseas and are now unwell, they have been encouraged to stay at home.
"A conversation with a GP can determine if they need to escalate it to the hospital or a private pathology clinic for testing for the coronavirus."
She said the state and federal governments had still not made available the appropriate face masks, suits and goggles to GPs, despite telling the public to contact them in the first instance.
"Some surgical masks from the commonwealth stockpile have been provided for unwell patients however GPs need to source the necessary P2, goggles gowns and gloves through private suppliers, which can be difficult.
"This is impacting our stocks as demand for coronavirus consults have definitely increased as the criteria for quarantine has broadened to include more countries.
"We are aware some practices charging an additional fee for PPE (personal protective equipment).
"We have also heard from our membership that masks have gone missing and been stolen from a number of GPs."
Dr McLean said there are other potential uses for a Medicare phone consultation rebates in the future, including the treatment of patients anxious about coming in or those in need of repeat prescriptions.
"There are a lot of things we can do effectively by telehealth," she said.
"It s really sensible it means provide people with the right care in the right place.
"It keeps frontline medical practitioners safe and enables us to use the protective equipment only when we have to, to conserve stocks."