A concerned regional general practitioner has called for greater communication about the management of COVID-19 cases ahead of the reopening of the South Australian border

Key points:

  • Doctor calls for specific regional COVID details to ensure medical clinics are prepared for looming arrival of the virus
  • Concerns GPs will be treating COVID-19 patients and visiting aged care homes, which could put the elderly at risk
  • Royal Flying Doctor Service says it is well prepared to convey COVID-19 patients from regional areas to metropolitan hospitals

Mount Gambier GP Scott Milan, who works at one of the largest regional GP clinics in regional SA, said there had been little official communication about the COVID-19 roadmap from the state’s health department.

His comments came as the countdown to the reopening of the SA border has begun and new COVID-19 case modelling was released.

The state partition is set to open on November 23 to double-vaccinated travellers.

Modelling prepared by the South Australian government showed differing case numbers depending on the level of restrictions and scenarios.

Dr Milan said more communication is needed.(ABC South East SA: Jack Evans)

According to one scenario in the report, the state’s total number of cases — which currently stands at 918 since the start of the pandemic — could reach 24,000 in 300 days if there were an outbreak.

Dr Milan said he wanted specific modelling numbers for regional communities, such as the Limestone Coast, so medical clinics could prepare.

“Given we are a border community, we’re likely to have a fair share in those,” Dr Milan said.

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SA Premier Steven Marshall last week announced the state’s roadmap.

Dr Milan said at the Hawkins Medical Clinic staff were kept informed by ABC News platforms only.

“That’s as much as we’ve been told. We’ve heard nothing from SA Health. We’ve heard nothing from our primary healthcare network,” he said.

“So, we’re quite unsure as to the role that general practice will be playing in managing community COVID.”

The Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft at the Mount Gambier patient transfer facility.(Supplied: Royal Flying Doctor Service. )

Community must be protected

Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell has questioned how medical air transfer services, such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and metropolitan-based hospitals will cope if a large spike of regional COVID-19 cases were conveyed to Adelaide.

“I want to make sure that we’re prepared and protected and that our communities prepared and can be protected,” Mr Bell said.

He said the government’s plan was to airlift COVID-19 cases who need hospitalisation out of Mount Gambier.

“How’s that going to work from a logistics point?”

He said these questions needed to be answered before the state’s re-opening.

Limestone Coast health leader Grant King says great planning is underway. (ABC South East SA: Jack Evans)

Regional planning under way

Limestone Coast Local Health Network governing board chair Grant King said great pandemic planning was underway.

He said the network’s staff had been working with the state health department regarding case modelling numbers.

“We’re hopeful that we’re not facing large numbers,” Mr King said.

Mr King said he was “fairly confident” the regional health services would manage when borders reopened.

Responding to comments by Dr Milan, Mr King said he would ask the health network to address the issue of better communication.

“But it is a big piece of work and communication is really important. So I’m certainly happy to follow that through.”

Flying doctor service “well prepared”

A Royal Flying Doctor Service spokesperson said the service was well prepared.

“The RFDS has an excellent surge capacity for critical-care response across its network, here in South Australia and across the country,” a spokesperson said.

“Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked successfully with the state government and local health partners around surge capacity planning to meet community needs – and we will continue to do so.”

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced the state’s COVID-ready strategy. (ABC News)

Responding to questions in parliament, Premier Steven Marshall said the hospitalisation rate diminished as vaccination rates increased.

“Also, the drugs and the treatment for those who are hospitalised and are COVID-positive mean that there are fewer and fewer people who are ending up in ICU on ventilators and ultimately paying the ultimate price for this terrible disease,” Mr Marshall said.

“The reality is that as we move closer to the higher vaccination rates, we put ourselves in a much better position.”

He said the majority of COVID-19 care would occur in metropolitan Adelaide.

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