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GPs fuming at COVID-19 mixed messaging

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Doctors and nurses are calling for clearer messaging from the federal government around coronavirus, as frontline health care workers cop increasing abuse.

Doctors and nurses are calling for clearer messaging from the federal government around coronavirus, as frontline health care workers cop increasing abuse.

The former head of the Australian Medical Association Mukesh Haikerwal's Melbourne clinic is refusing to test people who don't meet the criteria.

READ MORE: WA health care worker tests positive to COVID-19

Dr Haikerwal told AAP he had refused one patient because they didn't meet the criteria, only for the patient to call back saying they were told by a government health hotline they should be tested.

Two people wearing face masks walk out of the emergency entrance at Westmead Hospital, in Sydney's west.

"It's a complete disaster," Dr Haikerwal said.

"There is conflicting advice one agency to the other, one state to the other, one minute to the next."

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Dr Haikerwal said there needed to be one national source of advice, with a flowchart dictating when people needed to be tested.

He said health care workers always faced abuse at clinics, but it was even worse now as people demanded to be tested.

"Not everybody with a sniffly nose needs to go off and have a COVID-19 test," Dr Haikerwal said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Queensland GP Evan Jones has sectioned off part of his clinic north of Brisbane to treat coronavirus patients, with a security guard and nurse screening people at the door.

Dr Jones says people with coronavirus symptoms, or who have been overseas or in contact with someone who has tested positive, are directed away from the general practice.

"The vast majority of people are wonderful and very understanding," Dr Jones said.

"But there's just the occasional idiot."

He said people could become abusive, with one man even trying to steal the protective masks the nurse gave inpatients at the door.

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Only qualified health professionals should be the faces of the national communications of the strategy, as politicians risked muddying the message, he said.

On Monday, Dr Jones had 144 people show up for a test but under guidelines only needed to swab 11.

Pharmacist Michael Witte, left, gives Neal Browning a shot in the first-stage study of a potential coronavirus vaccine

Dr Jones also called on the federal government to provide more financial support for general practices.

It costs his clinic $188 to test a patient, but they only receive $36 back from Medicare.

Dr Jones said this could see the federally financed general practices collapsing or refusing to provide services, putting more pressure on state run hospitals.

In the ACT, staff at the nurse-run walk-in clinics also are facing abuse when they knock back Canberrans for testing.

Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation's ACT secretary Matthew Daniel blames a lack of clear messaging around the virus.

Mr Daniel said Canberrans are becoming verbally aggressive with staff, but no members had reported physical abuse.

"I've even heard of reports of members of the community offering money to do the test," he said.

"There's a high level of frustration because of people having to wait.

"I think people are scared ... and wanting to keep themselves and the people around them safe."

He said the federal government needed to provide better messaging to the public on the virus.

Source: 9News

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