Date published: 
2 June 2020
Media event date: 
30 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

SALLY COCKBURN:

It’s time for our weekly COVID roundup with our fabulous expert Professor Michael Kidd AM. He is Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, he’s also the Professor of Primary Care Reform at the Australian National University and a Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Family Medicine and Primary Care, and he’s a GP. Michael, welcome.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Hi Sally, how are you?

SALLY COCKBURN:

I’m very well, thank you. Now, there’s been a lot going on this week and, basically, I think it might be all good. Am I right?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yeah, look, there’s been a lot of very positive news. But as you said right at the outset, we are still seeing infections occurring and we all still need to be very cautious. But yes we are seeing a slow and steady, incremental easing of some of the restrictions which have been in place.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And would it be fair to say no matter what the restrictions that are being relaxed, you’ve still got to make sure you wash your hands and you keep the social distancing happening?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Absolutely, and I think that that is absolutely essential, that we all keep on reminding ourselves and reminding our friends and loved ones that this is to protect all of us and the virus is still out there.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And of course the restrictions are different in different states. Now, we’re only going to Victoria tonight, so people only need to check the Services Australia web site to see what our restrictions are. Because borders are still not letting people through is my current understanding, but that may change tomorrow. Can I just ask you: flu vaccines, we know we’ve been talking about them for weeks, how are we going?

MICHAEL KIDD:

Australians are getting vaccinated against influenza at levels we’ve never seen before, which is absolutely terrific, and to such an extent that the Australian Government has just released another two million doses of the influenza vaccine. So if people haven’t had their flu vaccine yet, there’s still time to do so. Please contact your GP or your pharmacy and get that done.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Now, of course, the flu vaccine does not help you against COVID. It’s more that we can at least rest assured that someone’s had the flu vaccine, it’s going to cut down on a lot of issues. And we’re going to be talking to someone who is doing the research, a clinical trial into the COVID vaccine. So our fingers are all crossed but we have to just wait.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yep, we do. There’s certainly a huge amount of research happening in Australia and around the world trying to find this elusive vaccine for COVID-19.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Now, respiratory clinics, Michael, there’s a bit of confusion about what these respiratory clinics are. Can you just sort of nutshell it?

MICHAEL KIDD:

So, clinics have been set up by the states and territories, often attached to public hospitals. But also the Australian Government has funded a large number of general practices across the country to set up specific respiratory clinics. And this is a place where people who have symptoms of a respiratory tract infection can go and get assessed and get tested to see if they have COVID-19. And so, as we keep on saying, if you get even mild symptoms of a respiratory tract infection you stay home and you arrange to get tested. These are the places where you go to get tested.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Now, I heard there was something that came out of the College of Pathologists saying they’re advocating for people to do self-testing, so that will be interesting to see where that goes.

MICHAEL KIDD:

It will, and it will probably be supervised self-testing. So rather than getting a kit at home where you do it yourself it will probably be where you’re being watched by a nurse or doctor as you do it. Because of course it’s really essential that the specimen is taken properly, so we don’t get results which are falsely negative. We want to make sure that we get a proper specimen.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Absolutely. And just with those respiratory clinics, there are maps. I think it’s on the Services Australia web site in Victoria, which is dhhs.vic.gov.au, there’s a map, and you can actually- or if you Google respiratory clinics, GP-led or DHHS respiratory clinics, you can find out where they are.

Now, we talked about the easing of the restrictions, and on Monday there’s going to be a bit of our tourism sector opening and we’re going to be talking to some people later about that, Michael. But there’s obviously, as we said at the outset, you still have to be sensible.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Absolutely. So, I’m sure that many people are looking forward to visiting some of their favourite sites around the state, and of course the people involved in the tourism industry are very keen to have people start coming and visiting their beautiful locations again. But yes we do have to keep all those measures in place that we have had around our hand hygiene and physical distancing and being respectful of other people.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And Michael, with schools reopening and things like that I just get a little worried that people sort of think: Oh well, that’s fine, I can go and visit nana and take the kids along. Maybe we need to even be more aware that if the kids are back at school they’re exposed to other people and we just need to be a little bit careful when we’re visiting vulnerable people.

MICHAEL KIDD:

We do, and the last thing we want to do is infect an elderly loved one or a loved one who has a serious health problem with COVID-19. So yes, maintaining that physical distancing is still really important.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Speaking of elderly people and companions, that’s my dog barking, if you’re wondering. It’s possum time of the night, the possums will be coming out and we have a little baby possum in our front yard.

Michael, there’s some fantastic funding that’s just been announced, and I gather there’s going to be a huge boost to palliative care in aged care facilities.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, isn’t that a great area to see being further supported, and it’s part of the lessons that we’re learning coming out of COVID-19. And of course there are so many lessons that we’re learning about ways that we might do things differently in the long term with healthcare. And for people who live in residential aged care facilities, of course, this is their home, and for many people who are in residential aged care, when they do reach the end of life, they and their loved ones would prefer that they stay there in their home and receive palliative care rather than being shipped off to a hospital into an environment that they don’t know, being cared for by people they don’t know.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Oh, exactly. And I think the message everyone always wants to get across about palliative care is it’s about maximising life, not doing something in the last couple of days until death. It’s very much: what can we do to make your life better towards the end?

MICHAEL KIDD:

It is, and Sally, you as a GP and I, we both know that this can be one of the most rewarding parts of the work that we do, supporting our patients at the very end of their lives to have dignity in that end of their time.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And what you need is familiar care, you don’t want to, as you say, be put somewhere where you don’t know the people. So, $57.2 million going to improve palliative care in aged care facilities, that’s pretty good. And I believe there’s also a big injection, if you will, for research into mental health and suicide prevention.

MICHAEL KIDD:

There is, because of course we’re very concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of everybody. We know that everybody in Australia over the previous few months has experienced heightened degrees of anxiety and worry and concern about our own health and the health of our loved ones and what’s happening in Australia and around the world. And we want to make sure that people are well supported, including as we start to open things up. But many people, as you say, many people who are vulnerable will still be in isolation and we are concerned about the impact of that continuing isolation on people’s mental health. There are of course a lot of fantastic resources out there to support people, through Lifeline and Beyond Blue. And of course with telehealth we have the ability to link with our GPs and with other mental health providers to get the care we need when we’re feeling low.

SALLY COCKBURN:

So people don’t need to feel there’s any barriers to them getting help. And I love the other thing that you’ve mentioned in your- I have to commend you on your weekly mailout to GPs, it’s just wonderful what you’re doing. You talk about the mental health first aid training for medical students.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, that’s a great initiative which has just come forward again and received some funding. And it’s recognising for our medical students, even if they’re in the very first year of their training, their friends and their family and other people do reach out them and say: you’re a junior doctor, not yet, you’re still a medical student, but can you help me with things? And so providing our medical students with skills not to be clinicians and to provide diagnoses but to know the questions to ask and to know where the resources are that are available if people need support.

SALLY COCKBURN:

And I have to commend the medical students, the Australian Medical Students Association has been into this for a long time supporting their peers, and they’re already into it, so it’s great to see that being recognised. Michael, as always, it’s been an absolute delight speaking to you and I’m sure you and all your other colleagues around the country are absolutely exhausted from the work you’re doing, just like all the other frontline people are. Congratulations on what you’ve achieved so far, as I would say congratulations to all of us for what we’ve achieved so far in terms of keeping this infection at bay. So thank you so much.

MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you Sally, and thank you to all your listeners for all the work that they are doing to keep us all safe as well.

SALLY COCKBURN:

Exactly. Thanks very much. That’s of course Professor Michael Kidd AM, Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, with his weekly COVID roundup.

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