New Zealanders are getting sicker because great numbers of people have stopped calling their GPs during the lockdown, despite clinics being open and safe.
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners says its ‘business as usual’ and wants people to keep calling their GPs to make appointments and keep on top of their ongoing health needs. Diabetics and asthmatics need to keep up with the care they regularly see their GP for, as do people with chronic health needs.
"Now is not the time to ignore symptoms and hope they’ll go away," says College Medical Director Dr Bryan Betty.
"While Covid-19 has a huge effect on the country it hasn’t taken out your other health needs and taking the attitude that ‘she’ll be right’ or that you’re somehow inconveniencing your GP during the pandemic is short-sighted thinking.
"Delaying or ignoring minor issues can cause them to escalate and require more significant treatment, possibly in hospital.
"This is not helpful for patients or the hospital during a pandemic, so it is paramount that patients seek advice early and a phone call to their GP is easy."
Dr Betty said that Healthline has reported to him that they’re seeing an upswing in chronic care issues because people are waiting too long to ask for the medical help they need.
"Skin conditions, lesions that are changing, and that scratch that you got gardening that is now red and itchy won’t magically cure themselves, and needs to be seen by a GP," says Dr Betty.
As well as injuries it’s important to stay on top of routine medications such as contraception and vaccinations like childhood immunisations. New parents need to ensure their baby is getting their six-week check with their GP and pregnant people and new mothers still need ongoing care.
Anyone with chest or stomach pain should also be calling their GP.
Dr Samantha Murton, President of the College says, "New Zealand’s GP clinics are open, safe and just a phone call away.
"Give your GP a call as you normally would and they’ll book an appointment, which may be by phone first.
"We have trusted relationships with our patients, so we know by talking to you whether you need to come into the clinic and if that’s the case you’ll be safe when you’re seeing us.
"The lockdown is a stressful time for many and we’d rather you called than silently worried at home, particularly as we can help too with any mental distress you’re experiencing that may be effecting your mood or heightening anxiety.
"You’re not in this alone - please call us," says Dr Murton.
GPs are open for business but are working differently during the lockdown. Always call your GP before you visit, and they’ll advise you on what you need to do.