Date published: 
26 May 2020
Media event date: 
23 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

SALLY COCKBURN:

At this time every Saturday night we talk to Professor Michael Kidd AM, who is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Australia and Principal Medical Advisor to the Federal Government. He’s also a director of the WHO, the World Health Organization, Collaborating Centre on Family Medicine and Primary Care. He’s also a GP. Welcome, Michael.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Hi Sally, how are you going?

SALLY COCKBURN:

Now, this is our COVID roundup, if you will, and I received one of your fabulous newsletters to GPs on Friday and you really summarise a lot of stuff there. I believe the telehealth services have been really latched onto?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes they have. It’s been quite amazing, over 10 million consultations between Australians and their chosen doctors and other health care providers have happened since the middle of March. So the Australian community has really embraced using telehealth, either video consults or the telephone, to consult with their chosen providers.

SALLY COCKBURN:

I saw the College of GPs come out during the week and say they’re a bit worried about some of the pop-up clinics that may not be giving the ongoing care that your usual GP can do. So, I suppose, what’s the message to people about that?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, I think the most important thing is that a telehealth consultation does not always replace the need for a face-to-face consultation. So if you’re reaching out to your doctor and arranging telehealth, just make sure that if you do need it, of course, you can still have a face-to-face consultation. Now that may not be with your chosen doctor, because your chosen doctor may be someone who themselves is vulnerable and at risk and is needing to be isolated at home...

SALLY COCKBURN:

[Interrupts] Like me.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Like you, that’s right.

SALLY COCKBURN:

I’m one of them. [Laughs]

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yeah, but you make arrangements with your patients if they need to see someone face-to-face to still do so.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Exactly. Michael, also, obviously Australia is really at the forefront of doing tests. Do you know where we’re up to, how many tests we’ve done?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, look, there’s over 1.1 million tests which have been carried out so far and thousands of tests being carried out every day, and it makes us one of the countries with the highest rate of tests per head of population in the world. But it is really important, Sally, that we continue to get tested. Everybody who has symptoms of fever or a respiratory tract infection needs to isolate themselves at home and arrange to get tested so we don’t have cases of COVID-19 out in the community, at work, at school and the risk of spread.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And we’ve seen a bit of that. There was 2 places in Melbourne and I think there was a nursing home in Sydney as well where, once you get an outbreak, you have to work very hard to put out the spot-fires. And obviously if people are taking this opportunity to get tested early, it’s the responsible thing to do.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes absolutely. As soon as we diagnose somebody with COVID-19 the contact tracers in each of the states and territories get involved and follow up the people who you’ve been in contact with. And of course if you have the COVIDSafe app on your phone that helps with that process as well. And we have great capacity in each of our states and territories when we do get an outbreak to move in really swiftly and make sure that we find out who’s been infected and arrange isolation and quarantine so we don’t get further spread.

SALLY COCKBURN:

So, Michael, we recently also saw some relaxation of the restrictions, and I think last week I asked you: if there was going to be a second wave, when would we see it? Hopefully we won’t see it because people are still, hopefully, doing all the right things. Are we getting indications that people are continuing with social distancing and hand-washing and things like that?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, absolutely. I think most people are taking this very, very seriously, and that’s really important. We can’t risk becoming complacent at this time. We did see that first small step in lifting some of the restrictions which have been in place for the last couple of months, and each state and territory is moving in its own way and quite cautiously with the lifting of restrictions, and that relates to what’s happening with the epidemiology of the virus in each of the states and territories. People are still taking things very seriously. So I think one of the things we talked about last week, Sally, was the importance of people who are at increased risk of COVID-19 to still stay at home and not put themselves at risk.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And I think that’s a really important message, because there are people saying: what does it matter? I’m young, I’m fit, I can get out there. But if people do have some comorbidity or age-related, you’ve got to look after yourself and assess your own risks.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes indeed, and also of course we’ve got to look after the elderly people in our population and not think that just because some restrictions have been lifted we can go and take our children and hug grandma and put very vulnerable people at risk. We’ve still got to be very, very careful.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Now, can I just change tack a bit. One of your points in your media— it wasn’t a media release, it was to GPs, was easing of restrictions on elective surgery. I’ve had two friends have elective surgery this week. It seems that it’s jumping back into catching up again. It’s going to be a bit of a long haul I suppose.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, it will be. And again, each state and territory is doing this at their own pace, deciding when it’s appropriate to allow which forms of elective surgery to take place. We have to make sure that we don’t overwhelm our health care system and that we still have enough ICU beds available if we needed them if we do get outbreaks occurring anywhere across the country.

And of course we’ve also got to make sure that we have the personal protective equipment for the people working in the theatres as well as for managing COVID-19. But we do know that there are tens of thousands of Australians who have had their elective surgery postponed because of the lockdown and the pandemic, and I think now is the time if people did have elective surgery organised to reach out to your surgeon or your hospital and just say: What’s happening, am I on a waiting list still? Do we have any idea when my operation will be taking place?

SALLY COCKBURN:

And again, if they can’t get in to see their phone consultation with their GP, we can often find out from the hospitals what is going on too. And most of the hospitals will, these days, send out reminders of where they’re at. It’s actually been a really good time when they are communicating very well.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, they are. I think a lot of people are quite anxious, especially we’ve got people who were going to have operations or investigations for cancer and for other serious diseases, really important that this gets back underway.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Indeed, and I think don’t be backward in coming forward. If you were waiting for some sort of cancer treatment, don’t sit around and wait for someone to call you. Ask your GP or your specialist where you’re at.

Just finally, Michael, we’ve got a segment later on in the show, we’re talking about concerts and events that are starting to say: we’ve got a concert happening and a tour happening later this year. But I sort of thought, how can that be? Have we got a timeline that’s showing that that’s going to happen? Or are we waiting and seeing?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

No, we don’t have a timeline at this time. I know a lot of people are hoping that further restrictions will be lifted, but really it’s going to be dependent on what happens over the weeks ahead, and this is why it’s so important that we all continue to do our part. I know that some people will be buying tickets for concerts hoping that they’re going to happen either later in the year or early next year. My warning, of course, is just make sure that if it doesn’t happen, you get a full refund.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Yeah, check the fine print, absolutely. So, really, it’s still wait and see. And I think the most important thing is while people may be hoping for all this, to realise that we are trying to keep everybody safe. And the advice is not because people want to punish people, it’s because we want to keep them safe, and you’re doing a fabulous job, Michael.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks Sally, and thank you to all our colleagues out there who are really doing extraordinary work looking after the health and wellbeing of the people of Australia.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Absolutely, and if people want more information, healthdirect.gov.au is the fabulous work of Health Direct and it’s 1800 022 222 is the number if you don’t have access to the internet. And of course you can go onto health.gov.au or onto your state government website, you’ll find out more. Michael, thanks for your time, again, and we really appreciate the time you spend with us each week.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

That’s great, thanks Sally.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID12024, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fdeputy-chief-medical-officer-interview-on-3aw-saturday-night-on-23-may-2020)

View contact