A recent online poll conducted by The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Melbourne surveyed Australian parents over one week in June 2020. They were asked about their own health behaviours, as well as their children’s, in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around 1 in 3 children who were unwell or injured during the pandemic had their healthcare delayed or avoided. This was largely due to the parents’ concerns about catching COVID-19 at a healthcare facility.
Other reasons for not seeking healthcare included parents wanting to follow government advice to stay at home and parents not wanting to burden healthcare providers during the pandemic. Some parents reported being unable to get an appointment with their usual doctor, being concerned about catching COVID-19 on public transport or not having enough money to pay the bill.
How do I know it’s safe to go to the GP?
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most GP and healthcare practices have implemented a 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 by:
- ensuring physical distancing
- conducting health checks on entry
- providing separate entry and exit points
- regularly cleaning all high-touch surfaces
- providing hand sanitiser
All staff need to be up to date with their own vaccinations and are advised not to go to work if they are sick.
Most GP practices and health services are asking everyone to complete a COVID-19 questionnaire on entry. People with respiratory symptoms are isolated and need to wear a mask.
What if I don’t want to take my child to the GP?
Many GP 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
When you need to take your child to the GP
Sometimes it can be very hard to know the right thing to do. The role of a parent is to protect your child from harm and not expose them unnecessarily to risk. 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.
- For most people, the COVID pandemic has affected daily life, but you should continue to see your GP. Healthcare providers are doing everything they can to minimise the risk of infection during consultations.
- Children without underlying chronic health conditions don’t appear to be at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
- Healthy routines and behaviours, including going to the GP where necessary, are important – even at the current time.
- Children need timely access to healthcare services. Delaying seeing a doctor when they are sick or injured can lead to further complications.
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).