23 health organisations have collectively put pen to paper and written an open letter to the people of Australia, urging preventative action to prevent a second wave of health problems after successfully flattening the COVID-19 curve.
The letter points out that during the lockdown period, rates of visits to GPs have dropped sharply. Allied health professionals and emergency departments have also seen big drops in patient numbers.
Pathology tests (on blood, urine etc), which are important for revealing illnesses and influencing treatment decisions, have dropped by 40%.
Across the country, numbers of cancer screening tests (already too low, according to experts) have dropped even further.
The letter says, ‘We don’t want to risk trading one health problem for another with Australians missing out on cancer, diabetes, heart or kidney checks because of fear and other barriers caused by COVID-19.
‘Postponing a visit to a health professional or a pathology test might seem OK, but cancer, diabetes and kidney disease do not stop during COVID-19.
‘We need to avoid delays to ensure any new symptoms get checked and diagnosed quickly, and to ensure we monitor existing conditions.’
The authors of the letter reassure Australians that healthcare professionals are taking additional hygiene measures and other precautions for in-person visits during the pandemic, and are also urging people to take advantage of services like Telehealth if in-person consultations are not an option.
Lifesaving medicines can also now be delivered directly to homes.
Patients are invited to contact their health services directly and ask any questions about how to safely access needed medical care.
The open letter ends by urging Australians to ‘get in touch, make that call, and book that appointment today. Cancer, heart disease and kidney disease won’t wait, and neither should you.’
The letter is signed by the following 23 health organisations:
Diabetes Australia, The Heart Foundation, Royal Australian College of General Practice, National Rural Health Alliance, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, Australian Diabetes Society, Consumers Health Forum, Allied Health Professions Australia, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, Medicines Australia, Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, Australian Diabetes Educators Association, Australian Cardiovascular Alliance, Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation, Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, The Pharmacy Guild, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Patient Voice Initiative, Australian Patients Association, Jean Hailes Foundation, Medical Technology Association of Australia, Pathology Technology Australia and Pathology Awareness Australia.