GPs worried that RATs will cause spats

24 February 2022

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners is frustrated that general practices have not received sufficient time to prepare for the increased use of Rapid Antigen Test (RATs) in practices and are worried about unnecessary stress being placed on an already under pressure workforce.

President of the College Dr Samantha Murton says, “We agree that the use of Rapid Antigen Tests is a necessary and welcome shift as we move to modify our approach to COVID-19 and the Omicron outbreak.

“However, we have great concern that the public will immediately expect access to RATS and become upset when they are not widely available.

“General practices in Auckland were only informed late last night that they should be switching to RATs as their primary testing model from today, but there are many practices who have yet to receive supplies of the tests beyond what they need for staff or at all.

“Overnight changes to any business are rarely possible, and when you add in the heightened anxiety of the people we are serving, it is all too likely that general practice staff will bear the brunt of the emotional distress of the community.

The healthcare needs of New Zealanders are the top priority for general practitioners and the workforce will continue to provide comprehensive community care to all who need it. However, pivoting a whole system overnight is not possible.

“General practitioners are doing their utmost to be flexible and adapt to the constant COVID-19 changes as and when they happen. They have been on the frontline of the pandemic for over two years now providing COVID and non-COVID care.

GPs and their teams are doing their best in a fraught environment. Many of them have capacity issues and will not be able to take up the testing or pivot quickly.

Omicron is a condition that will be managed in the community and the health professionals providing that care need to be supported to do their job.

“Appreciation of the work that has been done, the changes that have been instituted and some kindness when services are not yet available, as they are outside our control will, go a long way to sustaining good health care in the community.” Says Dr Murton

COVID-19 testing guidance from the Ministry of Health can be found here.