CALD patients getting help to access healthcare during pandemic

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cold season with a coronavirus twist

Concerns have been raised about culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients potentially avoiding medical care due to fear of the Covid-19 virus.

Given that CALD patients are also bearing the brunt of the pandemic with increased mental health symptoms, isolation and loneliness, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is responding to these concerns by helping these patients access GP care during the pandemic.

Through the RACGP’s Expert Advice Matters campaign, CALD patients are encouraged to look after their health during the Covid-19 pandemic and consult their GP for any health concerns.

RACGP spokesperson, Dr Lara Roeske says more needs to be done to reach CALD patients during this time.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, CALD communities in Australia already faced health inequalities and barriers to accessing healthcare, including language and health literacy issues.

“The pandemic has only made matters worse – many patients are avoiding seeing their GP because they’re afraid of the virus and don’t know about or feel comfortable using telehealth,” says Dr Roeske.

Dr Roeske highlights the importance of effective communication with CALD communities and the need to reiterate to these communities that “there are safe ways to get the expert care” they need.

“We need to do better to communicate to CALD patients, and provide information that’s translated and culturally appropriate. The extension of the RACGP’s Expert Advice Matter’s campaign to CALD communities aims to do just that.

“My advice for patients is: If you’ve delayed an appointment or have a new health concern, don’t wait any longer,” adds Dr Roeske.

Seven tips for safe healthcare

The RACGP provides seven tips for safe healthcare during the pandemic:

  • Don’t delay healthcare, call your GP for any health concerns.
  • Make use of telehealth and video technology. Telehealth appointments are bulk billed for concession card holders, under 16s and vulnerable patients.
  • Interpreters can be accessed by calling the Australian Government’s free Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450.
  • You can get your prescription from your GP on the phone or video and collect from a pharmacy.
  • It’s safe to visit your GP in the clinic if you need to – clinics have made necessary changes to ensure safe provision of care.
  • If you’re in Victoria, don’t forget to wear a mask when visiting your GP. Patients living in other areas with community transmission are also advised to wear a mask when visiting a GP.
  • If you have Covid-19 symptoms (cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, fever or chills, loss of smell or taste) get tested right away and self-isolate until you get the result.

A website for patients has been translated into the most commonly spoken languages other than English, including Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Hindi and Vietnamese.

The websites include practical information for patients on how they can safely access care from a GP, including telehealth and telephone consultations featuring free interpreters.

You can view the websites here: expertadvicematters.com.au/

GPs are helping to spread the message by sharing videos of themselves speaking in different languages, urging patients not to delay routine healthcare and explaining how they can safely consult with their GP. You can find the videos on YouTube here: youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKg37k2DuVFPDvTWVer3SyZBK31R80BvE