What we heard about COVID-19 in June 2020
As we emerge from the first impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Murray PHN has spoken with our community to understand the challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 created for people locally.
While we were asking individuals to share their experiences, we also spoke with general practices about the impact on patient care, practice operations and business sustainability.
Hearing from a broad range of voices gives us a better perspective on our health system and helps us plan more effective local primary health care in the post-COVID future.
Who we heard from
From Colignan to Caniambo and Merbein to Myrtleford, we heard from a range of Health Voices, of whom 83% identified as female.
What people missed and enjoyed most in isolation
New services that have been made available and/or random acts of kindness that people have received/participated in to support others during COVID-19
From supporting more local businesses and buying Australian-made, people have stayed connected by calling family, friends and neighbours more often, running errands for vulnerable populations, sharing supplies during shortages, participating in “drive-by” birthdays and thanking unsung heroes, such as supermarket workers. Food deliveries were appreciated, so too were special treats and gifts delivered by friends or community groups.
Services that people wish were available to assist them more during COVID-19
- Meal/grocery deliveries
- Medication deliveries for everyone
- Access to health services in other states
- Home help e.g. garden, cleaning, food assistance
- More access to flu vaccinations
- Access to everyday grocery items that have been in shortage due to the pandemic
- More IT support to participate in video calls/telehealth consults
- Vunerable persons support for over 65s
- More hand sanitiser in shops
- Travel support to get to specialists as services are closed
- Advice on how to help others struggling with their mental health
- More availability/access to infection control essentials
Health Voices who live with a chronic disease
Almost half (42%) of the Health Voices who participated in this survey, said that they had a chronic disease. That group also told us what changed for them in accessing care for their conditions during COVID-19:
How often people visited the doctor in June 2020 compared to before COVID-19
Almost a third of Voices had visited the doctor a little less, or much less, than before COVID-19. When asked if they had visited the doctor recently:
While the majority of Voices said that they didn't have a need to visit a doctor, some of reasons people didn't go were: the cost or availability of doctors; they were too scared to sit in the waiting room with others; or that they were waiting until restrictions lifted and services would be easier to navigate.
People who visited the doctor recently were asked if their consultation was via telehealth (by video or phone) and how they found the experience
Note that people could select more than one option.
A number of Voices also commented that they were happy to have their consultation via telehealth to save time and money on travel.
Who had their flu vaccination and why or why not
Who had been tested for COVID-19 and why
Of the Voices who were tested, most had to travel less than 10kms:
- 10% more than 60kms to get tested
- 16% between 20-60kms
- 16% between 10-30kms
- 58% had to travel less than 10kms
- "Accessing health services and hospitals in Melbourne has been very stressful, especially in the early days. I was not allowed into the emergency department with my husband, nor to the intensive care unit, or oncology centre. This has been very challenging as his primary carer."
- "As I have a chronic disease, I consider myself extremely lucky to have an excellent GP who instructs me on how he will handle my visits, as do the rest of the staff in the surgery. I do not sit in the waiting room but outside, but he comes and gets me, so that I have limited exposure to people.
- "COVID-19 has not been a bad thing entirely - people recalibrating their lives and their priorities. Pausing life has been a good learning curve for many - allowing for genuine introspection and self-reflection."
- "I am over being locked up at home and would love to get out again."
- "I am apprehensive about easing restrictions too quickly and afraid of visitors to our area during the snow season."
- "I appreciated the health services that were available during COVID-19 but I really missed those that weren't. I had a nasty dental emergency at the beginning of the pandemic and was turned away from a dental clinic as my temperature was high."
- "I hope the world does not return to 'normal' as that wasn't working! What have we learned? How can we continue to be kinder to each other and the planet ongoing post-COVID?"
- "I think the long-term effects will surface later. My mental health was impacted by working as a pharmacist and I had to take annual leave."
- "I think the acceptance of telehealth by doctors and consumers will change the way that regular appointments are kept. No more waiting up to an hour in a waiting room full of sick people!"
- "I would like to show my appreciation for the health care and emergency service workers, supermarket staff, truck drivers, cleaners, teachers and anyone else who has made major adjustments to their daily lives to make it easier for the rest of us."
- "I am so grateful to all doctors, nurses, hospital cleaners, hospital admin staff, hospital kitchen staff, GPs and their staff for their dedication and commitment during COVID-19."
- "The interaction between pharmacy and general practice has increased and this has been really positive. There is greater opportunity to use pharmacy to support the broader health networks."
- "People need to continue to wash their hands and use their brains to stay home if they're not well."
For more information about COVID-19
It’s important that we don’t get complacent. Until there is a vaccine available - which could be months or years away - COVID-19 will remain a risk.
If you don’t need to leave home then you shouldn't, but if you have to, you should assume that others may be carrying the virus and continue to practice good hygiene and maintain physical distancing. Most of all, avoid contact if you’re feeling unwell and arrange to get tested for COVID-19, even if your symptoms are mild.
For more information and support, including community and mental health resources and local COVID-19 testing clinic details click here.