With all of New Zealand now under the red traffic light setting and recognising that we already have a stretched workforce, The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners would like to remind the public that general practice clinics are still open for business but may change how they see patients.
The College’s President Dr Samantha Murton says, "There will be extra demand and pressure on GPs and general practices once Omicron becomes prevalent in the community. We have been faced with a shortage of specialist trained GPs for several years now and COVID-19 does intensify that shortage.
"However, for over two years, GPs have stepped up to cope with additional demands for vaccination, swabbing, managing COVID-19 in the community, as well as continuing business as usual care, and will continue to be at the frontline of the COVID-19 response," she says.
While there is uncertainty around how fast Omicron will spread around the country, there are steps you can take to ensure you are as prepared as possible. Once Omicron is established in New Zealand, the peak surge is expected to last between 4-6 weeks.
College Medical Director Dr Bryan Betty says, "While most people will experience mild to moderate cold like symptoms, and can manage their symptoms at home, there is uncertainty about what the extra demand may mean for some business-as-usual services.
"GPs will strive to maintain their regular services, as well as providing COVID-19 response care."
The College will continue to work with the Ministry to look at how health services will cope as the Omicron surge unfolds and how to maintain frontline services as demand increases.
Dr Murton says, "It is important we continue to work collaboratively as a health system to respond to the predicted COVID-19 surge, and that specialist general practitioners and their teams be supported by the Government and the Ministry so we can continue to provide frontline medical care."
Drs Murton and Betty updated College members to provide reassurance and practical ways the GP workforce can prepare for Omicron in the community. Read the update here.