People like to use the terms coalface and frontline when they’re talking about the work GPs do, as if its immediacy and seriousness can only really be understood by likening it with war and, for some reason, mining.
The pandemic could change that, now we’ve been forced to acknowledge healthcare as essential above all else. It’s also becoming obvious that those who provide it are under great pressure, not only from Covid-19, but also because of the systems in which they operate.
“The viability of general practice has been an issue for quite a few years now,” says Dr Ayman Shenouda, acting president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the peak body for general practitioners in Australia.
Covid-19 has just made matters worse.
“We are trying to respond to the demand of patients. We are trying to respond to the needs of our communities and the needs of our country for the future. And that creates a big load on general practice,” he says.
Dr Marina Kang has run a small practice in Kingsford, an eastern suburb of Sydney, for around 30 years.
She makes sure to leave time between patients who are still coming in to see her so that she can clean the surgery between visits.
“Even though it is more respiratory borne, we have tried to stick to the recommendations,” she says.
It takes barely a minute of conversation for Dr Kang’s focus to drift away from the impact Covid-19 has had on the way she runs her practice, to how her patients have been affected.
“The older ones who are probably on the verge of dementia, with the social isolation and the stopping of a lot of the