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“I find it hard to remember Christmas,” reflected the 70 year old gentleman before me. He was not  in cognitive decline, but was living the shared experience of millions with the calamity of covid19. Social distancing, hand hygiene, not seeing his grandchildren, not going out much at all really had become the discipline. But, thankfully, he had thus far avoided the virus and continued to manage his chronic illnesses.

Australia has had many fewer deaths from covid19 than other countries but from Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy down, a growing concern is the parallel management of our other health conditions. We have been lucky and well managed in, so far, limiting deaths to 102 from covid. The future is uncertain with this virus and we require vigilance, but some other numbers from the ABS National Health Survey (2017) demand attention:

43,447 deaths with 1.1 million hospital admissions in 2017 – from cardiovascular disease;

45,200 deaths from cancer – lung cancer at 8,262 followed by bowel, prostate and breast cancer;

1.2 million people living with diabetes.

With such large numbers, changes in patterns of presenting to the GP and changes in health screening and surveillance can have a massive impact.

At the beginning of the viral outbreak we committed to standing with you throughout. Enhanced processes and protocols to keep you covidsafe have been deployed and we continue to maintain all measures including cleaning controls, social distancing and use of PPE, Telehealth and in clinic care.

We really appreciate your efforts too: calling ahead and advising if you are experiencing any fevers or flu-like symptoms helps us maintain your safety and that of other patients and staff. We have the flexibility to examine high risk presentations outside the practice as required.

The same pre-planning applies with chronic disease management – booking long appointments in advance helps us manage complex presentations thoroughly. If you, or someone you know, has let their check up slide, or needs care, we urge you to contact the practice.

In many ways, covid has been the great displacer: displacing people from their jobs, their loved ones, and displacing health resources from their usual care. But we have to contend with our existing problems and prevent new ones as well as fighting this foe.

One number that could coalesce with covid and caused me concern in the ABS report was the following:

4.8 million.

The number of people with a Mental Health/Behavioural Condition including anxiety and depression. If you, or someone you know, is suffering a mental health disorder amid all this, please book in for a long appointment.

We all want to enjoy this next Christmas. We want you to be well. Together we can achieve it.

Blog by Dr Michael Clem