GP Gaston Boulanger.
GP Gaston Boulanger.

Coronavirus: GP’s verdict on $100m telehealth service

A GLADSTONE doctor has welcomed plans for bulk-billed phone and online consultations announced as part of the Federal Government's response to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The new $100 million Medicare service is for people in home isolation or quarantine as a result of coronavirus, to receive consultations via phone or video.

Vulnerable groups, including older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions, will also have access to telehealth consultations.

Dr Gaston Boulanger welcomed the measures and said that based on current advice, the chances of contracting coronavirus was small.

"The chance you have coronavirus if you haven't travelled overseas or haven't been in contact with a person who has coronavirus is very, very small," he said.

He has seen some cases of influenza A in the city recently, and said people with flu-like symptoms should avoid spreading infections.

"If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home, ride it out, then if you stop coughing 24 hours later you probably should be good to go back to work," he said.

He advised people with questions to call their GP.

"You want to keep all the simple common colds out of your surgery, and the reason for that is that common colds are highly contagious and the symptoms of common colds and coronavirus are exactly the same," he said.

It's understood the Gladstone Hospital is taking swabs for people who meet the criteria, but Dr Boulanger said people concerned should avoid just walking in.

He advised calling ahead and getting advice before presenting to a clinic or the emergency department.

There have been no confirmed cases in Gladstone.

Advice from Queensland Health states that people who have been overseas in the past 14 days and feel unwell should contact a doctor immediately.

The countries considered at high risk are mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

The telehealth service will be free for patients and is available from tomorrow.

The Government is also spending $206.7 million for up to 100 respiratory clinics that will be "one-stop shops" for people concerned they may have the virus.

Primary health networks will co-ordinate with the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and states and territories to identify areas of need.

An additional $30 million will be spent on a communications campaign providing advice on containing the virus and staying healthy, and $50.7 million to expand a national triage hotline to operate 24/7.

A total of $2.4 billion will be spent on the health response to the coronavirus outbreak.