Date published: 
11 May 2020
Media event date: 
9 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

SALLY COCKBURN:

I’d like to introduce Professor Michael Kidd, as always at this time, Michael Kidd AM. He’s the Principal Medical Adviser to the Federal Department of Health. He’s also Professor of Primary Care Reform at the Australian National University and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Family Medicine and Primary Care. And we have Michael at this time each week to do a bit of a sensible roundup on COVID. And have you recovered from listening to your mum’s favourite song, Michael?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you, I think that was our favourite song, something we used to sing together when I was little, so thank you, Sally.

SALLY COCKBURN:

You’re very welcome, and happy Mother’s Day to your mum. Michael, on the COVID thing, there’s all sorts of stuff floating around at the moment. There seems to be federal advice, state advice, people are getting confused. What is the difference, why is there a difference and what should we do?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes. So, yesterday we had some very good news coming out of the National Cabinet with the announcement of this 3-step process which all the states and territories and the national Government have signed up to. And those steps provide a way for us to hopefully move out of the pandemic over time.

But I do understand there may be some confusion because how each of the states and territories adopts the current measures in step 1 will be up to each of the states and territories and will depend on what’s happening currently with the pandemic in each of our states and territories. So, not surprising that it’s different, but yes I’m sure it’s causing some confusion.

SALLY COCKBURN:

But it doesn’t make any particular advice wrong, it just means this is what you have to follow in your state. So it doesn’t mean it’s wrong in your particular state or whatever, it’s just this is what the decision has been.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, absolutely, and I think that the people of Australia and all your listeners are to be congratulated for everything that everyone has been doing over the past weeks to ensure that we flatten the curve and we’ve kept everyone as safe as possible.

But the coronavirus is still with us and it is still a risk, especially to vulnerable people, and this is not a time to be complacent. We still need to adhere to all those measures we’ve been talking about over the weeks with our hand hygiene and our physical distancing and staying home if we have any symptoms of fever or respiratory symptoms. But because we’ve managed to contain the virus to the level that we have, we are able to see the lifting of some of the restrictions in a staged way in each of the states and territories.

SALLY COCKBURN:

On that, Michael, the Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, I was listening to an interview with him earlier this week, and it really resonated with me when he said: what we need to do is to avoid a second wave. He reflected back on the Spanish flu in 1918 and 1919 and was talking about the fact that there was a second wave there. But of course those people had the benefit of some immunity. We don’t even know whether you can get immunity from COVID-19, or whether you can be at risk as much of getting a second time. Is that right?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

That’s right. There’s still a lot we’re learning about this virus and about what having been infected once means with regard to ongoing immunity, or if immunity exists how long will that last. And of course what we want to do is prevent that second wave from occurring in Australia.

We have seen in a couple of other countries, in Singapore and elsewhere, that once restrictions started to lift there was a significant increase in the number of new cases and some measures had to be put back in place. And we do of course expect that there will continue to be sporadic outbreaks of COVID-19 occurring in Australia. But the measures which we have in place with the increase in testing, with the ability to trace any contacts who people have been close to, and also the ability to very swiftly move in and manage any of those outbreaks, first of all, will prevent that happening.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And that’s why the app is so important, this COVIDSafe app, because that’s how we can trace contacts and let people know very efficiently. Where are we at? Do you know how many downloads there are now?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, we know that at least 5.4 million Australians have downloaded the app so far, and we encourage everybody to do so, because clearly the more of us who have the app on our mobile phones, the more people will be able to contact, if we do get any outbreaks and any new cases. So I do encourage all your listeners to download the app if they haven’t, and of course when you are out and about, that you make sure you’ve got your mobile phone with you and the app running, so that it will be [indistinct]...

SALLY COCKBURN:

[Interrupts] I have an ability to hear beyond the speaker, and I can hear lots of people yelling at the radio saying: But I don’t have a mobile phone. There’s nothing we can do about that because that’s where the app is.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, that’s right. So, yeah, the app...

SALLY COCKBURN:

There’s a Christmas present.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

…is on your mobile phone. Maybe if you’re going out and going for a walk with someone, go for a walk with someone who does have one.

SALLY COCKBURN:

That’s a good idea. Now, just the final thing, and you mentioned it earlier, but I want to really stress it, we may be having relaxation of some of the restrictions which will vary between the states. But what does that mean in practicality to someone who is maybe over 70, who has comorbid conditions, diabetes, disease, asthma, do things change for them?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, I think that’s a really important question, and although some of the restrictions have been lifted with the number of people who can come together, people who are vulnerable to COVID-19, people who are older and people who have chronic disease or have immunosuppression, it’s very important they continue to protect themselves and to be very careful about any interactions.

And of course that includes tomorrow with Mother’s Day. If your mum is someone who’s elderly or who has chronic disease, by all means of course reach out to your mum, but it’s still not time for everyone to be coming in and hugging and getting physically very close. We have to maintain those physical distances for the protection of everybody.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Michael, just before we go, we’ve got Margaret on the line with a very important point. Hi, Margaret.

MARGARET:

Hi Sally, I’m very, very upset. I saw mum today in aged care. She’s been in there for 5 weeks now and they’re in their room, they’re not going to the dining room for their meals, and I was allowed in for half an hour today to see her.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Oh, excellent.

MARGARET:

She went in with short-term memory loss and part dementia. Today, terrible, she doesn’t know what day it is, she doesn’t know what’s going on, she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and they’re in the one room.

SALLY COCKBURN:

So she’s deteriorated within, how many weeks has she been there, did you say?

MARGARET:

Definitely 4 weeks.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Okay. I think that’s really critical, and I’m sure Michael as a primary physician, as a general practitioner is thinking what I’m thinking: dementia doesn’t happen that quickly. Michael, the whole thing about management of people in aged care, we still need to be vigilant about their medical conditions.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, absolutely. So, Margaret, if you have noticed that sudden deterioration in your mum, please reach out to her GP and say this is what’s happened, to make sure there isn’t some other underlying physical cause for what’s been happening. And our hearts go out to you. All our aged care facilities are doing the very best they can to protect the health and wellbeing of our loved ones, but it is really hard when we’re only able to have limited time with the people we care about.

SALLY COCKBURN:

So, Margaret, after 7:30 we’re going to be having a chat with Cameron Loy from the College of General Practitioners and we’re going to talk about this, which is: how do we deal with the fact that if our loved ones are in aged care and we’re noticing a deterioration in their health, what should we do? And I think Michael’s advice is perfect: You need to get the GP to review her. Are you comfortable with that? And I’ll tell you why, Margaret, there’s dementia and then there’s a temporary form where they can seem like they’re dementia but in fact they’ve got a chest infection or they’ve got a urinary tract infection and it affects the way they think. So I would certainly recommend what Michael has suggested is, get the GP to review her, Margaret. Are you comfortable with that?

MARGARET:

I am very comfortable with that. But, if I sort of start to make waves, am I going to make it worse for mum? That’s my…

SALLY COCKBURN:

Absolutely not. No, it’s just, personally- and look, we can have this conversation a bit later with Cameron because he’s from the College of General Practitioners, but I don’t think there’s ever a problem with someone simply saying: I would like my mum to be reviewed by the GP. I think that’s very important and if you’re not getting anywhere with it, you can certainly go to the staff higher up. But you should be able to find out who the GP is and you can ring them yourself.

MARGARET:

Yeah, I can do that. I just didn’t think…

SALLY COCKBURN:

Want to make waves. I know exactly what you’re saying. I don’t think this is making waves at all. You’re not saying they haven’t cared for her well. You’ve noticed a change in her that they may not have picked up.

MARGARET:

Yes, and she’s had the urinary tract infection before and it could even be.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And that can certainly trigger them. And look, again, you approach it very much in a: look, I’ve noticed this, can we get the GP to review them? And Margaret, let me know, email me at the radio station you’re listening to, and I can always have a chat with you offline about that.

MARGARET:

Oh, thanks, because last week she had a fall and that could even. Okay, thanks Sally.

SALLY COCKBURN:

No worries, Margaret. Michael, it is a difficult time and I do worry about people thinking they’re making waves when they’re trying to report something. And I don’t think the nursing home or the aged care facility’s going to be worried about Margaret’s thoughts.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Not at all. You know, Margaret knows her mum best.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Absolutely.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

And I think, as you say, family members should never be afraid to speak up for those who they love.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Now, we did talk earlier, Michael, you were texting me and I was texting you about your mum’s favourite song. And you know what, we might actually have your mum’s favourite song and we might like to play it as we go out to the break. Here you go, Michael, this is for your mum, and thank you very much.

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