The RACGP has expressed its disappointment and frustration with Mark McGowan’s latest comments on the role that GPs have allegedly played in contributing to overrun E.Ds.

Speaking with ABC Mornings’ Nadia Mitsopoulos on August 2nd, the WA Premier said that the current pressure on the state’s hospitals can be partly blamed on the fact that ‘GPs are turning people away’.

“And that is, the signs on the door of GP clinics saying, ‘if you’re respiratory, go to a hospital’,” Mr McGowan said.

“That’s what we’ve got to deal with, because if anyone walks through the doors of an ED, an emergency department, we deal with them, we don’t send them away.”

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that the comments from Premier McGowan were ‘completely unfair and don’t take account of the pressures facing practices across the state’, pointing out that it’s unacceptable to blame an overburdened hospital system on general practice.

“The Premier should be getting behind GPs and general practice teams… Instead, he is once again kicking us when we are down,” Professor Price said.

“GPs and general practice teams are delivering COVID-19 vaccines and boosters as well as influenza vaccines, prescribing COVID-19 antiviral treatments, helping people who have delayed or avoided consultations and screenings during the pandemic and those with mental health issues and delivering more patient services than ever.

“If he had done his homework, he would know it is our preventive care, early intervention, and sub-acute care that results in reduced numbers of people presenting to emergency departments in the first place.

“We are on the frontline doing an incredible job and we are desperately needed by our communities more than ever before – it is not an exaggeration to say that without us, the healthcare system would collapse.”

RACGP WA Chair Dr Ramya Raman called the WA Premier’s comments ‘extremely disappointing’ and said he should remember that each individual practice must make extremely careful decisions about managing patients during high COVID community transmission.

“It is not that GPs are ‘sending away’ patients. Rather, practices do everything they humanly can to help all the patients that come through our door every day with a range of health conditions including respiratory illness,” Dr Raman said.

“Some practices in WA will have the capacity to see patients with respiratory symptoms; however, others sometimes will not.

“Discarding all the systems we have implemented during the pandemic to help keep our practices and teams as safe as possible simply isn’t an option, practices must carefully triage symptomatic patients and implement infection control precautions – and this takes time and resources.”

She explained that If practices don’t have the space to manage this task, they will have processes in place to refer patients appropriately, either to a nearby practice or local GP led respiratory clinic.

“Something that all practices must have front of mind is limiting the spread of COVID-19 through a practice to avoid GPs and staff contracting the virus and being forced to isolate [and] that, in turn, has a massive impact on patients in that community who need to consult with their GP,” Dr Raman said.

“So, again I urge the Premier to reconsider his comments because right now GPs and general practice teams need all the support we can get. We are on the frontline of this pandemic doing our absolute best in very trying circumstances and don’t need another headache.”