The Victor Medical Centre believes that services normally provided to both people living on the Fleurieu and any visitors to the South Coast will need to change as a result of COVID-19. The centre wants to ensure that the local population and local doctors are not compromised during the pandemic in South Australia.
The Partners highlighted that 47.4% of the population of the permanent residents of Victor Harbor are over 60 years of age and 10.5% of the population are over 80 years of age. As such, Victor Harbor is the area most at risk in all of Australia in the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Partners of the Victor Medical Centre acknowledge the work of SA Health, the South Australian Government and the Federal Department of Health during this incredibly difficult time. However, we know we have a hard journey ahead for at least 3 months if not longer.
Dr Chris North
Given the spread, infection rates and death rates in the aged population resulting from COVID-19, Victor Medical Centre is aware of the need to constantly adopt new processes and systems to provide medical and nursing care.
Victor Medical Centre has been a provider of health care in the region for over 50 years, we provide care for our permanent residents and at least 40 % of the visitors who own holiday homes here. To assist us caring for our local people at this time, we ask people not to visit the Fleurieu unless it is their primary place of residence. Health resources are limited on the South Coast and with our particularly high rates of people over 60 years we need you to please stay away.
Dr Chris North
Victor Medical Centre has 15 doctors, of which 6 work full time. The clinic has 22 nurses and clerical staff all of whom assist community care across the South Coast. As a result of COVID-19, the Partners have some doctors consulting by telehealth only. The other doctors are working according to state and Commonwealth standards ensuring that all patients are screened for symptoms of COVID-19 as part of making appointments and screened again as part of attending the clinic.
Life needs to go on, people need to have sutures, trauma attended to and their usual chronic diseases and some of these people need to be examined, however we are moving to telehealth for local patients as much as possible during the COVID pandemic.
Dr Chris North
The Victor Medical Centre also provides care to approximately 300 aged care beds. The various aged care providers have done a fantastic job in introducing policies to reduce the risk of COVD-19 in their facilities, however this can all come to naught with increasing visitors to our area.
The Partners wish to acknowledge the help and understanding of our many -patients who have noticed the changes that have already been introduced to try to minimise the risk of COVID-19 entering the Victor Medical Centre. These include:
- Arranged appointments by phone only – no walk in appointments will be allowed
- Minimised waiting time – patients will only be allowed entry 5 minutes before their appointment
- Social distancing in the waiting room with reduced chairs
- Temperature checking and screening before entry
- The offer of telephone or tele-video consultations
Whilst COVID-19 places particular strains and stresses on the health service, the usual day to day medical issues still need to be managed, especially in Victor Harbor with such an aged population, often whom have multiple comorbidities.
The recent decision by the Federal Government to allow Telehealth Services, for the majority of visits, has been extremely useful in keeping patients at home – however sometimes face-to-face consultations are still needed. For this reason, the Partners of the Victor Medical Centre have recently decided to increase the processes that we are putting in place to ensure, that not only is our patient’s health not compromised, but also to maintain the health of our doctors and also of our staff.
These changes will mean from the 1st April 2020, anyone with respiratory symptoms or a fever will be offered a phone or video consultation. If the doctor feels that a face-to-face consultation is warranted, we will then be referring that patient to the South Coast District Hospital Emergency Department whilst the Fever Clinic is being established at the South Coast District Hospital.
One of the main issues of being able to see people safely in the surgery is the lack of facemasks and appropriate personal protective equipment. As of 4th April 2020, the surgery has 15 gowns and 15 P2 masks, which are needed for seeing patients with suspected COVID-19.
We acknowledge there is currently a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in Australia, which the government is trying hard to rectify – a recent letter in The Advertiser of a local factory up tooling to provide PPE is greatly welcomed. However, these will not be available until early May 2020.
The Primary Health Network (PHN) was tasked with establishing Fever Clinics in various areas and asked for interested parties to nominate their interest.
The Partners of the Victor Medical Centre did develop a plan to utilise the buildings near the centre, however when we came to nominate our interest we were informed by the PHN that their preferred provider was the South Coast District Hospital. We are currently in discussions with the preferred provider about what services they will be able to provide to the residents of the Fleurieu. We are assuming that they will be provided with the appropriate PPE to assess all respiratory patients.
Two of our doctors provide Anaesthetic services and five of our doctors provide Obstetric services to the South Coast District Hospital. These are still essential services with the Obstetric doctors being expected to look after COVID-19 pregnant patients during labor with the appropriate precautions. The Anesthetists are to be involved in airway management of severely ill COVID-19 patients.
The Partners of the Victor Medical Centre acknowledge the work being done by all agencies and wish to support them by making sure that we avoid hospital admissions, emergency department presentations and maintain the mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing of the long-term residents of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
We are currently in negotiations with the SCDH Emergency Department to see if they are prepared to send lower Category presentations to the Victor Medical Centre, where such patients will be bulk-billed. By this action, we hope to help with the increasing workload of the SCDH, whilst they will be dealing with all respiratory illnesses.
The Partners of the Victor Medical Centre are currently providing phone care and assessment to COVID-19 positive patients in the community. This is organised through the GP Assessment Services and we will continue to provide this to regular patients of the Victor Medical Centre who may unfortunately, become COVID-19 positive. This provision in itself will also add to the general practice workload.
Due to the lack of personal protective equipment in General Practice, and the possibility that the Fever Clinic will have first priority for PPE, we have taken the steps to remove anyone with respiratory symptoms from being seen face-to-face.
As the situation changes, the Partners of the Victor Medical Centre are reviewing their policies and processes on a daily basis, but wish to reassure people that we intend to continue face-to-face consultations, with the appropriate screening, as long as possible.
We also wish to remind everyone of the importance of the need for a yearly flu vaccination.
At the present time we are still awaiting the delivery of this year’s flu vaccination as part of the South Australian Immunisation program. The first of these staged deliveries will arrive next week. They are not yet available for those patients under 5 or over 65 until then, despite the recent Government Media announcements to immunise.
To provide a non crowded vaccination environment we have dedicated our Pt. Elliot Branch for our Flu clinics.
Thank you again for your cooperation in these challenging times!