GPs, patients adjust to tele-health world


Melbourne GPs like Dr Sharaniya Navaratnam have moved to tele-health to care for their patients. Photo: Sasha Vaz

The spread of COVID-19 has forced the industry at the frontline of the pandemic – healthcare – to move to a digital provision of services, with medical centres using phone and video consultations, rather than face-to-face appointments.

In Melbourne, Pound Road Medical Centre General Practitioner Sharaniya Barathi Navaratnam says doctors have adjusted well to social distancing, managing most patients through tele-health.

” I think social distancing isn’t that difficult especially for a doctor – 80-90% of our diagnosis comes from history taking and talking and there’s that extra bit of examining a patient which sometimes adds to the severity of the illness,” she said.

“I’m managing most of my patients – 99% of my patients at the moment either through tele-health or if they do present at the clinic, at a distance.”


Dr Navaratnam also says she would be willing to treat a patient with the coronavirus as this is her job.

“I think this has obviously been a question in every doctor and nurse and health care workers’ mind over the last five months now, and I think it comes down to the job that we were trained to do,” she said.

“I would be obviously willing to help but there’s always that fear of whether I get corona or whether i am going to take coronavirus home to my family.”

Pound Road practice manager Maria Blandina Wheeler says patients and doctors are finding the phone consultations helpful.

“Since Monday the 30th we started doing phone consults – most of the patients are fine with that,” she said.

“Some doctors are scared – especially those who have younger children, so with the phone consults it’s reassuring that they don’t have to be in contact with patients in case they [test] positive.”

Dr Navaratnam says the pandemic has affected her professional life, adding an element of self-doubt to her work.

“There’s always that questioning-could I be doing more? Am I doing the right thing at the moment or am I doing enough? Obviously I’m grateful to have a job in this economy but there’s not so many patients coming to the clinic – people don’t want to come out of their houses, they don’t want to come and see their doctor,” she said, before reminding patients the risk of contracting COVID-19 at the clinic was extremely low.

“You’re probably safer here than you would be maybe at a shopping centre,” she said.