According to a June 2020 online poll of Australian parents by The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Melbourne, around 1 in 3 children who were unwell or injured during the pandemic received their healthcare only after a delay — or it was avoided altogether.
This was largely due to parents’ not seeking healthcare because they were concerned about catching COVID-19 at a medical facility.
Some parents also said they had wanted to follow government advice to stay at home or had not wanted to burden healthcare providers. Others reported being unable to get an appointment with their usual doctor; being worried about catching COVID-19 on public transport; or not having enough money to pay their bill.
How do I know it’s safe to go to the GP?
All GP and healthcare practices have introduced a wide range of prevention and control measures to protect patients, staff and the public. These recommendations are in line with the best available evidence from government health authorities.
Health clinics need to follow COVID-safe precautions, some of which may include:
- ensuring physical distancing
- requiring masks to be worn (unless the person is exempt)
- conducting health checks on entry
- providing separate entry and exit points
- regularly cleaning all high-touch surfaces
- providing hand sanitiser
Staff are always advised not to go to work if they are sick.
Most GP practices and health services are asking patients to complete a COVID-19 questionnaire on entry. People with respiratory symptoms are isolated and need to wear a mask.
When you need to take your child to the GP
Sometimes it can be very hard to know the right thing to do. Because it's the role of a parent to protect your child from harm and not expose them unnecessarily to risk, you may feel conflicted. However, there will be times when your child needs to see a doctor or healthcare professional without delay.
- If your child is injured, sick or there is a medical emergency, dial triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
- If your child is sick or needs medical assessment, contact your GP in the usual way and book a face-to-face appointment.
- When you make the booking, ask the receptionist about their COVID-safe practices.
- Follow their recommendations about calling or texting from the car park or outside to let them know you’ve arrived.
- Follow the COVID-safe practices recommended.
What if I don’t want to take my child to the GP?
Many GPs will understand your concerns, and practices are offering phone or video consultations (telehealth) as an alternative to face-to-face appointments. For families who are self-isolating due to a confirmed or possible COVID-19 diagnosis, telehealth is a good option. It’s also an alternative for parents or individuals who may be concerned about attending a surgery or clinic for a consultation.
Before a telehealth appointment:
- check with the clinic if they are offering telehealth
- book a suitable time and be clear about how to connect
- have your child with you so the GP can see them on the screen
- minimise distractions so you can focus on what you both need to say
- clarify the process for any test requests, referrals or prescriptions
- The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the daily lives of us all, but you should continue to see your GP. Healthcare providers are doing everything they can to minimise the risk of infection during consultations.
- Children need timely access to healthcare services. Delaying seeing a doctor when they are sick or injured can lead to further complications.
- Healthy routines and behaviours, including going to the GP where necessary, are important — even during these difficult times.
If you can’t visit your GP and want health advice, you can speak to a registered nurse by calling:
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 — 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week
- Call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).