COVID puts Mount Gambier health workers out of action

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COVID puts Mount Gambier health workers out of action

Mount Gambier’s Ferrers Medical Clinic has been experiencing workforce shortages due to COVID-19 causing the practice to temporarily close on Sundays and public holidays.

Ferrers Medical Clinic Practice Manager Anne Bierwirth said the decision was made by the partners of the practice and would be reviewed when their workforce returned to full capacity.

Patients who require phone advice for urgent matters can still call the duty doctor on these days, however phone appointment charges may apply.

In regards to their phone congestion, Ms Bierwirth encouraged patients to call mid-morning or afternoon if the matter was not urgent due to phone wait times in the early morning.

Ms Bierwirth said close contact requirements were leading to decreased staff and GP numbers and social distancing was also making circumstances difficult as they could only have five or six chairs in one space.

“That has had a big impact on the capacity of people that we can see, because we need to monitor these numbers in our spaces for waiting all the time,” she said.

Patients must enter through the rear door because the space near the front doors was turned into an additional waiting area to adhere to social distancing requirements.

Ms Bierwirth said social distancing had also made five-minute flu clinics a slow and tedious process as they could only allow a certain number of people in the building.

Ms Bierwirth said most patients had been tolerant and supportive, however there was a small number who were abusing staff on the phone and face-to-face.

“It’s just been pretty constant, our staff are pretty sick of it actually, they’re doing the best they can but there is a small group of people that are really just pretty awful,” she said.

“It’s fine to have an opinion, but to come over and abuse staff at a desk or over the phone is just not acceptable.”

Ms Bierwirth said Ferrers had a zero-tolerance policy for aggressive and violent behaviour and verbal abuse and people would be asked to leave and unable to return to the clinic as a patient.

She had also noticed an increase in staff needing to debrief about patients in staff meetings and they were ensuring staff and doctors received as much well-being support as possible.

Ms Bierwirth said when entering the clinic, patients will no longer need to QR code check-in, however mask wearing will remain mandatory.

“As a private practice in a health setting, I think it’s prudent that we continue to have the masks, particularly going into winter,” she said.

“We will re-assess it maybe once we get past winter, we just think that that’s a sensible decision to make for our patients’ safety and to keep our staff numbers as safe as possible so that we’re all still here to serve people.”

Ms Bierwirth reminded people that many of the decisions were made by SA Health and they were legally bound to comply.

“We’re doing that to keep not only us safe but our patients safe as well, we’re following the legislations all the way through because we do want to get past this and have everybody come through safely,” she said.

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