Join me as I take you behind the scenes at our medical centre in the Gold Coast (dubbed a Coronavirus Hotspot by the news) to see how we clean the practice, triage patients and prepare for our day in the midst of a Coronavirus outbreak.
Outside of the door we have clear signs advising patients who think they may have Coronavirus or have symptoms of the virus to stop and call us for advice. We have posters and information of the local testing centres clearly displayed as we are not geared up to have in-house testing.
We start the day by disinfecting common areas with medicinal grade detergent, including the reception desk, doctors office, appliances and any waiting room surfaces. We ensure that patients are seated well away from one another to avoid any spread of infection in a closed space.
Patients call in for appointments and will be triaged by reception or a nurse to ensure that they are not putting other sick patients at risk. It is easy to forget that medical centres need to remain open to cater for those who may be suffering from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lung problems or cancer. It is of utmost importance to ensure that such patients are not subjected to any potential Coronavirus sufferers in the waiting room. All patients are required to use hand sanitiser and are offered masks if warranted.
Patients who are deemed unable to attend the practice are offered telehealth consultations in lieu of a face-to-face consult.
For added safety, front line staff such as receptionists and doctors use N95 masks and other protective gear during their working day to minimise any potential exposure. These are then disposed of and areas are disinfected again.
So far, to date we have not had any Coronavirus patients or suspected patients. This could only be possible with a team effort from the staff and from you as patients. We request that you call in to book an appointment so we can assess the nature of your visit.
As a medical doctor, I urge you to help flatten the curve, be sure to follow strict social distancing of 1.5m, practice regular thorough hand washing, self-isolate and avoid large crowds. Together, as a world, we can combat Coronavirus.
Join me next time where I take you through some patient experiences of Coronavirus.
I hope you’ve found this video useful and always, if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line below.
Working as a general practitioner in Chinatown and Surfers Paradise, a major tourism hub, my first instinct when the news broke of the virus was to ensure that I was keeping myself and patients protected. Hunting down an elusive P2/N95 mask was a struggle but I eventually managed to source some for myself and staff.
In clinic, my staff have done a great job at screening patients prior to booking appointments and thanks to the Australian media, patients travelling from China are very well versed in the precautions that they should take. This is unlike what has occurred in London, where a lady with Coronavirus presented herself to the emergency department without letting the teams know in advance.
Here in Australia, I have seen some patients from Hong Kong and whilst there was some anxiety around their recent travel, they were most respectful and reported that they had no symptoms but instead had presented for a minor ailment. Many of the local Chinese community living in the area have themselves been concerned about going into Chinatown so not to propagate the virus and have even been wearing masks despite not having symptoms. There has very much been a strong community movement in containing the virus.
One common consultation that I do have unfortunately, is that of anxiety surrounding the Coronavirus. All too often I am presented with patients who are suffering severe anxiety, taking the form of work avoidance, staying at home and even avoiding using the lift in their high rise apartments so instead using the stairs. This is heartbreaking for a general practitioner and such patients are offered psychological support to address the root of their anxieties. If this sounds familiar to you, please know that there is help out there and I would encourage you to speak with your doctor about this.
Other patients have presented using multiple face masks in the hope of getting extra protection. There has been no recommendation for this, as long as your mask is fitted well, one should suffice. These patients are at risk of getting quite severe mask fatigue as the masks can be quite thick and difficult to breath leading to dehydration and headaches.
In other consultations, some patients are turning up requesting to be tested for the virus as they may have passed someone close by coughing or sneezing. Such patients have usually attended the emergency department and have been referred back to their GP as they do not fulfil the criteria for testing.
It is important to know that not all general practitioners have the ability to test for the virus, so if you are suspicious you may have it, it is imperative to call in advance to check and also so that staff can be ready to isolate you from other patients. This is also true if you are presenting to the emergency department.
As a practice, we ensure that at the end of the day we wipe down all surfaces with bleach as we know this destroys the virus and our equipment is cleansed after use with each patient.
On a lighter note, one great benefit of wearing the mask is protection against the common cold. Very often I get patients who present with a cough or runny nose and will cough on demand to ‘prove’ a point. As general practitioners we are well trained in detecting such ailments so please refrain from coughing on us as it could mean we pass those bugs to others or take them home.
On the other side of the spectrum, I have some patients who are completely oblivious to the situation. Some of which ask me ‘Doc, why are you wearing that mask? Are you sick?” As a healthcare professional I am in a privileged position to advise others about current health precautions.
The best way to protect yourself is to practice regular hand hygiene, making sure to wash your hands under running water with soap for at least 15 seconds. Of course if you are unwell or you suspect that you may have the Coronavirus, please self isolate and contact you local emergency department or doctors office prior to visiting.
Dr Nora is a GP from London, England. She graduated from St George’s University of London in 2011. She carried out her postgraduate speciality studies in the South-West of London. She is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and The Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare.
Dr Nora has a Diploma in Women’s Health & Family Planning and enjoys practising Minor Surgery and Facial Aesthetics. She has a specialist interest in chronic disease management such as Diabetes and Respiratory Health and takes a proactive approach to health promotion. She is also fluent in the Arabic language.
Dr Norah Hager Hassan Sadek, MBBS, MRCGP, DFSRH, FRACGP