DOCTORS in rural and remote Queensland are reporting shortages of personal protective equipment as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take hold.
Rural Doctors Association of Queensland president Clare Walker urged people in remote areas to stay away from their doctors surgery unless it was completely necessary.
She said for most people, coronavirus would lead to only mild symptoms, and with no cure available, it was best they stayed home to ride it out without exposing general practitioners, who were vital to the overall wellbeing of their communities.
Dr Walker said medical staff had been advised to preserve their stocks of PPE and only use it when essential. However, she said it was difficult for health professionals to know whether a patient would present with respiratory symptoms as some would not disclose their ailments when making appointments.
"There has been a quick and good response in some areas, but other rural workforces are giving feedback that there is a shortage of PPE," Dr Walker said.
"This is especially true in private general practices. The public health network has been tasked to distribute across the country, and from what we're hearing some places have got equipment and some are completely out."
Dr Walker said in those instances general practitioners should encourage anyone with respiratory conditions to go to their local hospitals, phoning ahead to advise of their symptoms, instead of attending their GP clinic.
She said part of the problem was that the distribution of PPE was not centrally managed, with requests made on a local level.
"The other issue is that it's completely unknown, we don't want to stockpile, but no one knows how much we will need and for how long. Once community transmission is in all areas, all frontline physicians should wear PPE all the time."
Dr Walker said when the swine flu epidemic took hold in 2009, a lot of health workers were exposed when treating patients who presented with other conditions.
She said providing PPE to rural and remote health workers should be a priority.
"Once health workers get sick especially in rural areas where a town may have one, two or three doctors, as soon as they go down the health of the entire community is compromised, not just to look after coronavirus cases, but to look after community health needs for the next six months."