While Australia largely managed the first two years of the pandemic better than most other countries, there are areas for improvement and important lessons we must learn from. The submission makes it clear Australia performed best when Governments listened to the advice of the medical and scientific community. This was not always straightforward, and at times took significant advocacy from the AMA.
The AMA did note concern that this review seems to treat the pandemic as if it is over despite record cases across the country. The submission makes it clear that the health system has not moved on from the pandemic and that Governments should put politics aside and listening to the medical advice.
The submission also addresses the frustration felt by doctors that the Government has again limited access to telehealth by telephone during times of increased spread in the community. We saw this in July 2021 when telehealth by telephone items were significantly restricted while Sydney was experiencing a severe outbreak, then again on 1 January this year during the Summer Omicron wave. We have again seen it in July where telephone services have again been restricted despite the Government trying to promote access to oral COVID-19 medication.
The submission does commend the decision to commence the vaccine rollout in general practice. With limited supply and high demand, the prioritisation of vulnerable and high-risk populations was the right decision. Using general practice to administer initial doses particularly to the elderly and people with chronic health conditions was the right decision as it utilised the existing relationships between doctor and patient.
The submission also highlights the AMA’s call for a Centre for Disease Control (CDC) which dates back to 2017. A CDC would provide the mechanism to target and coordinate national leadership to support federal, state and territory governments coordinate public health responses to disease outbreaks.
You can read our full submission here.