Wellington Scoop

Limiting contacts: GPs planning consultations by phone or online

News from Royal NZ College of General Practitioners
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19 GPs have been asked to rapidly move to doing more consultations by phone, email and video. Patients requiring in person GP appointments will still get them, but non-urgent, routine appointments will be done via other means if possible.

“In view of the Government’s suggested restrictions announced yesterday, we believe it is important to keep vulnerable patients safe by reducing the number of people in GP waiting rooms,” says College President Dr Samantha Murton.

“Patients who need to be seen by a GP will still be able to do so, but we will make that decision after first having a ‘remote’ consultation with them using text, email, phone or video,” she says.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, but we have spoken with many of our health sector colleagues and Māori partners, and we are confident this is the right action to take at this time.

“For the safety of our most vulnerable patients, we have taken proactive action informing our members yesterday to get ready for this change on Monday. We’ve asked all our GPs to immediately switch to doing a virtual consult before an ‘in person’ one.

“We want patients to be assured that continuity of care will continue. Many of our elderly patients will continue to need care if they are in their homes and this is a way that we can look after them as well.

“I’m sure everyone in the country has taken onboard the message delivered yesterday by the Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, that we must take every precaution we can to reduce physical contact and stop the spread of the virus.

“Family doctors in Italy have shared their learnings with us, and reducing non-essential in person consults is a key message that we can, and must, take onboard.

‘We recognise that other health concerns continue on around us and the provision of care for everyone needs to be timely and safe.

“Every practice will work out a system that works for their individual circumstances, and we have recommended contacting their patients to explain how their own system will work.

“These are extraordinary times and require extraordinary measures. We are at a crossroad. If we do not act immediately, we will lose an important opportunity to help control this virus.”


  1. Politik, 22. March 2020, 16:55

    Installed intercom on wife’s surgery door so it can be locked tomorrow; she, meanwhile, scooped up disposable painters’ overalls at Bunnings because the PHO has run out of gowns for staff to wear when testing. Now they’ll look like painters. [via twitter]

  2. N.D., 22. March 2020, 17:17

    With 66 confirmed cases of you know what, the probability of a positive result is 0.0013%. On average, you’d need to test 75,000 people to get a single positive result. Say a test takes 15 minutes, that’s 2 person years working 24/7 to get a positive result from randomly testing people.

  3. George, 22. March 2020, 22:39

    N.D Your calculations don’t appear to have allowed for the exponential increase in numbers from 1 to 66 in days and more readily available testing only began Monday 16th March. Testing is not available on demand so the tests will be done on high risk individuals therefore the pickup rate will be much higher than your calculation.

  4. N.D., 23. March 2020, 9:05

    George – my calculations were based on the current 66 cases. Double it and its 1 person year working 24/7 for a positive result and quadruple it and its half a year working 24/7. I’m also wondering if increasing testing will increase the rate of positive results.


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