All Australians will be able to consult their GP through video chat as of Monday, as the government moves to slow the coronavirus pandemic.
The government is providing $669 million to expand Medicare subsidies for telehealth services, so that they can be used by everyone during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, telehealth services had mainly been used by people in rural areas or by vulnerable individuals.
“What we are doing now is a radical transformation in the way we deliver our health services: as of tomorrow, we will have universal telehealth available in Australia,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“Everybody who is self isolating or is under formal isolation or formal quarantine, that means you can ring your doctor, whether it is your GP, your specialist, your mental health psychiatrist or psychologist, your allied health practitioner or your nurse practitioner, all of these are available.
“It is a decade’s worth of work in a matter of days.”
By making telehealth available to every Australian, the government hopes to limit the unnecessary exposure of patients and healthcare workers to the coronavirus.
Instead of visiting a clinic, people will be able to access health support in their own homes, either over the phone or through online video chats such as FaceTime or Skype.
“We are asking Australians to stay home, particularly older Australians,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“We want to ensure that they can continue to get access to healthcare and health advice and support from GPs, which is why this measure is being put in place.”
The government has also released an iOS app called Coronavirus Australia for people to keep up to date with the latest official health advice.
If you think you may have coronavirus, either call your doctor (DON’T visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you’re struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
And please remember to wash your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) and keep at least 1.5 metres between you and those around you.Image: Getty Images / Picture Alliance