RACGP President Nicole Higgins explains why on-site PCR testing was scrapped

Traditional PCR tests have been scrapped to ease the burden on taxpayers, a top doctor has revealed.

As the federal government announced that those seeking a PCR test will now require a referral from their GP, one of the country’s leading doctors has revealed why the pandemic-style test was no longer offered of Covid on site.

On Tuesday, the president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Nicole Higgins, told NCA NewsWire that GPs had sought clarification from the health department after it was announced that PCR tests now required a doctor’s referral or a nurse.

He said that for most people, PCR tests were not necessary.

“For most, a PCR is not necessary,” he said.

“It is a significant cost for taxpayers. The government has said that states will still receive funding to provide PCR to vulnerable people.”

He said despite the change, there was still a role for the tests Australians have come to know over the past three years, particularly for those who tested negative on a rapid antigen test (RAT) but still have symptoms or are vulnerable.

Anyone with respiratory symptoms is still advised to seek a PCR test through their GPs, despite a national scheme now requiring referrals for previously available tests.

“Those at high risk with negative RAT results should still have a PCR and it will be available through state systems, GPs and respiratory clinics,” Dr Higgins said.

“Anyone with respiratory symptoms should stay home.

“Whether it’s Covid or other viruses, people should stay at home. If you have to go out, wear a mask.”

Australian medical professionals criticized the federal government’s plan on Monday when it was announced that PCR tests would not be available without a referral.

Health Minister Mark Butler released the national Covid health management plan on Monday, with changes to the way the country’s health services deal with the virus as cases rise.

By 2023, Australia will move to managing Covid-19 in a “similar way” to other respiratory viruses, moving away from tailor-made arrangements. PCR tests would only be available with a doctor’s referral, Butler said.

The changes to the tests are intended to turn a PCR test, which is more sensitive than a RAT, from a surveillance tool to a means of getting those in need faster access to antiviral medication.

“People have a choice,” Dr Higgins said.

“They can see GPs, they can go through respiratory clinics.

“Each state will have options available to vulnerable people.”

Antiviral medications are still available to eligible people, but a positive RAT or PCR result is required to receive them.

“Antivirals are part of doctors’ bags, so GPs also have emergency supplies,” Dr Higgins said.

“We encourage those in the high-risk categories who are eligible for antivirals to contact their GP.”

He said GPs were wary of the potential negative consequences of the change, particularly in the form of wider spread and exposure as people jump through more hoops to access PCR tests.

“What that looks like, at this stage, we’re not sure. We’ll have to ask for clarification.

“The landscape will change over the next 2-3 years as Covid becomes part of our normal daily life,” he said.

“We have management plans for that, going forward, about how we incorporate Covid, how we manage patients into everybody’s workflow.”

Originally published as Top doctor, reveals insights into changes in PCR testing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *