The role of general practitioners (GPs) and other primary care providers is likely to change during the course of a pandemic depending on the stage and severity of the illness.
In the early stages of a potentially severe pandemic
The role of GPs and other primary care providers in the community is likely to be aimed at directing patients who may be infected with the pandemic influenza strain to a designated flu clinic or other health facility for further assessment and management.
- The community will be provided advice on what to do if they develop an illness consistent with pandemic influenza. This is likely to include instructions to call (rather than visit) their local GP for advice, or to call a State Pandemic Hotline number.
- Patients suspected to have the novel strain would then be encouraged to attend a designated flu clinic or other health facility for further assessment. In some circumstances an assessment at home may be organised.
- Patients will still present to GPs, Emergency Departments or other health care provider, and so there will need to be strategies to screen patients as they arrive and safely refer suspected pandemic cases to a more appropriate assessment location if their clinical condition permits.
- GPs and other primary care providers may also play a role in helping to manage contacts of pandemic cases who are referred into home quarantine, in collaboration with public health officers.
- Flu clinics and other assessment facilities will need to have the capacity to safely assess and manage pandemic patients, access rapid diagnostic tests and anti-influenza medications, and minimise the risk of further spread of infection.
- Alternative arrangements may need to be established in rural and remote areas where there may be only one or just a few health service providers. Health professionals will need to plan with their local health services to clarify what their roles will be during an influenza pandemic.
In a less severe pandemic and/or when there is evidence of widespread community transmission
Health professionals will continue to play important roles including:
- assessing, testing and managing pandemic patients
- contributing to surveillance of the disease, and helping to build a clinical evidence base for policy measures
- supporting families during anxious times
- reinforcing pandemic risk and infection control messages to reduce the spread of infection
- supporting pandemic vaccination efforts when a vaccine is available
- helping to maintain other essential health services when human resources are scarce.