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COVID-19: Nurses need telehealth tools now
22 March 2020
The national president of the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA), Karen Booth, has called for nurses to be given greater access to telehealth so people with chronic disease can continue to receive care at home during the COVID-19 crisis, keeping pressure off hospitals.
'We must keep people with complex conditions, who are at high risk from COVID-19, as well as possible and away from hospitals while the crisis is unfolding,' says Ms Booth. 'Coming into contact with the disease can be lethal for them. We also have to conserve hospital resources for acute patients who will need care during this crisis.'
'Right now, Australia has to adapt to the greatest health challenge of our time,' she says. 'We certainly can’t afford to sideline our largest health workforce outside the hospital system—and that’s the 82,000 nurses working in primary health care.'
'We have to remove the barriers so nurses can provide remote care for vulnerable patients who will increasingly self-isolate at home to avoid infection from COVID-19. We need to support those patients while they’re at home to prevent unnecessary hospitalisations. This will free up time for hard-pressed doctors and resources for hospitals stretched by COVID-19.'
Ms Booth says the Federal Government should consider block funding for general practices to pay for telehealth services including triage provided by practice nurses, as well as an expansion of the number of nurse chronic disease management consults with the ability for those consults to be via telehealth including chronic disease care planning.
Ms Booth also backed calls by other health professionals to remove barriers to greater use of telehealth.
'COVID-19 is a game changer. It means we have to empower everyone in the health workforce to play their part in keeping Australia healthy and keeping the health system going,' she says. 'Telehealth is a no-brainer. It lets us keep caring for people while reducing risk of exposure to the virus.'
Ms Booth praised nurses and doctors at the frontline for the challenging work they are already doing as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. 'This is a difficult time for everyone in the community, and particularly so for health workers who are putting themselves at personal risk. They deserve a huge vote of thanks and the support of every Australian.'
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The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) is the peak professional body for the 82,000 nurses who work outside the hospital system. This includes nurses in general practice, aged care, Aboriginal health, corrections and other community settings.
APNA provides primary health care nurses with a voice, access to quality continuing professional development, support, and networking opportunities.