15 July 2021

How do we care when we’re not cared for?

Comment COVID-19

My over-60 patient said to me “I’m a teacher. That’s frontline isn’t it? I should be offered the Pfizer.”

“I’m a GP and I’m not considered frontline either,” I countered.

The silent surprise on his face registered as a sense of shame. The shame one can feel as a result of neglect. Of being devalued.

People with symptoms of covid come and see me first because of their symptoms of covid, so I know I am a frontline worker.

When it comes to our profession, in which I have placed great value, my protection is ranked as B-grade. I am 1B.

I saw photos of the local hospital workers smiling on the bus when they were sent to the vaccination hub. Months ago. They were looked after. Systematically valued. There was no bus organised for me.

When the government makes an announcement and says “Speak to your GP”, I imagine people believe that the government has communicated with me in some way, in a way that indicates I have value, as a GP providing healthcare and vaccinations during this pandemic.

But the government does not notify me of the role it intends me to perform.
I hear the government announcements as a member of the public, if I happen to be listening to the news.

I am in a state of uncertainty.

This is systematic, institutional neglect.

As it is when the government makes an announcement that all vaccinations will be bulk-billed, and sets the terms for payment they will give and how they will be and will not be given – payments which cannot be negotiated and grossly undervalue the work which is needed, the staffing, the equipment which must be paid for, and the learning undertaken. I do not believe this can happen to a private contractor.

When the government cancelled most of the telehealth item numbers in the middle of a lockdown – phone items which have been providing my profession with a clear line of defence against contracting covid-19 – in the absence of ensuring I have adequate personal protection, in the absence of ensuring I have the best available vaccination, this too is a form of calculated systematic institutional neglect.

How does the profession of general practitioners maintain, or regain, a sense of worth and self-respect in these circumstances?

How do we ensure general practitioners are protected, valued, and enabled to provide excellent health care?

Dr Karan is a GP in the Blue Mountains, NSW. This piece was originally published at her website tekhnomed.org.