Brook Medical Centre staff calling on local residents to remain calm - and heed professional advice

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Brook Medical Centre's Dr Mark Rikard-Bell and practice manager Kristen Seymour.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Brook Medical Centre's Dr Mark Rikard-Bell and practice manager Kristen Seymour.

BROOK Medical Centre practice manager Kristen Seymour is calling on local residents to remain calm - and heed professional advice - as the threat of coronavirus (COVID-19) increases in the state.

Doctors and staff at the Muswellbrook facility, which recently welcomed four new registrars Tasha Sandhu, Mehedi Biplab, Omar Akram and Sione Akauolo, have reassured the community they are continually working to keep the surgery open.

Luckily, as of Tuesday morning (March 24), there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Upper Hunter.

"We are aware that these times are unusual for all of us," Ms Seymour said.

"However, with the mainstream media and social media in overdrive at the moment, we need to let people know what we are doing regarding COVID-19 and what it means for the community.

"We're practising 'as normal'.

"So, it's a good opportunity to [still] make an appointment.

"We've also implemented a number of necessary measures to keep everyone healthy and safe."

Social Distancing

"You will notice that we now have in place 'alternate seating arrangements' within the practice," Ms Seymour said.

"This will enable patients to sit on every second chair instead of close proximity to the person next to them.

"There are also chairs outside of the building for those patients who choose to wait there.

"These seats have signs encouraging the use of every second chair as well.

"We have a notice at the front counter requesting all patients remain behind a yellow line, which is on the floor, for the safety of staff and patients.

"Upon entering the surgery, you are also encouraged to wash your hands with the hand sanitiser before coming to the counter."

Medical/Sick Certificates

"If employers are requesting their staff to self-isolate or self-quarantine, they need to be aware that our General Practitioners cannot and will not provide any medical certificates to any patient who are not eligible to be tested for COVID-19," Ms Seymour said.

"This arrangement must be between the employer and the employee."

Phone Consultations

"The Brook Medical Centre is able to offer phone consultations for patients that meet the criteria as set out below by the government," Ms Seymour added.

"Please take the time to read the information as set out and, if you do qualify, contact the surgery on 6543 1222 to arrange for a phone consultation with your GP.

"Visit https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/covid-19-national-health-plan-primary-care-bulk-billed-mbs-telehealth-services_0.pdf

"If you do not fit the criteria - you are encouraged to contact the surgery and make an appointment to see your GP as normal."

Family Members

"During this difficult time, we also advise that Brook Medical Centre would encourage only one family member or support person with the patient," ms Seymour said.

"We understand if a loved one or family member is sick; it can be frightening and important to have support.

"However, Brook Medical Centre needs to continually ensure the safety of the community and will ask upon arrival that the patient only have support person with them."

Muswellbrook District Hospital

"Muswellbrook District Hospital should not be used as a call centre for patients who do not fit the criteria," Ms Seymour said.

"It is important that all enquiries regarding COVID-19 are to be placed to the NSW Health Hotline on 1800 022 222.

"The hospital is not staffed to take extreme volume of calls and should be left free for emergencies and out-of-hours acute illness only.

"To ensure our community's health and wellbeing are continually looked after, we respectfully request you work with us to 'keep the well, well'."