Doctors’ scathing letter to Dan Andrews
Senior doctors across Melbourne are urging politicians not to support a state of emergency extension today, saying the move threatens to "destroy" the health and wellbeing of fed-up Victorians.
In a letter to Premier Daniel Andrews, seen by NCA NewsWire, 13 medical practitioners outlined their concerns about the State Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They say it is "vital" stage four restrictions are lifted on September 13, believe "an alternative medical response" is required and highlight key data they think is being "excluded".
"It is our professional opinion that the stage 4 lockdown policy has caused unprecedented negative economic and social outcomes in people, which in themselves are having negative health outcomes," the doctors say in the letter.
Speaking to NCA NewsWire, Box Hill Hospital urologist Dr Geoff Wells said he hoped the letter would help leading doctors "have a seat at the table" and be able to provide medical insight, without a "hellbent focus on numbers".
"The spread of this virus and who it is hitting is the real data," he said.
"We just want to have significant input into this response instead of a blanket approach that is harming the general population.
"When I see my patients and ask them how they're coping, the number one response is the sadness at not being able to see their grandchildren for three, four or five months and the ones who live on their own are extremely isolated.
"The mood of the population has changed dramatically in the past two weeks - there seems to be one half that is getting angrier and angrier and the other half which has just lost all hope - these policies are effecting the general psyche of the community."
The letter - a combined effort from urologists, psychiatrists and surgeons - sent to the Premier's office on Monday compared coronavirus data with other serious medical concerns.
"We now know that whilst COVID-19 is highly contagious, it is of limited virulence," they wrote.
Virulence is a technical term for the severity of a disease.
"We are told that since March 2020, 565 Victorian patients have died either with or from the virus (31st August numbers). This compares with annual Victorian deaths of approximately 10,000 patients with cardiovascular disease and 11,000 with cancer.
"Accordingly, the COVID-19 deaths are a relatively small proportion of the 114 deaths per day that are normally seen in Victoria. In comparison, since the start of March COVID-19 has been associated with 3 of the 114 deaths per day.
"Most of the 565 deaths have occurred in nursing homes which according to doctors currently working in this environment have described causal factors related not only to the virus but to other care related issues, including isolation, loneliness, and related diminished nutritional intake."
The doctors go on to write about how Victoria has seen 541 fewer flu deaths this July than last year.
"In Australia last year, 2019, in the month of July alone we had 71,000 new laboratory-confirmed cases. And a total of 313,000 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza for the year.
"This is only a fraction of the actual total cases of influenza, as many cases go untested. In August 2017 we had 99,000 new laboratory confirmed cases of Influenza and a total of over 250,000 cases for the year.
"Since June 2020, the death rate has risen sharply in aged care facilities where the risk of transmission of COVID-19 has been unacceptably high. However, the government, and the doctors advising it, have not reviewed their policy in order to focus on this vulnerable segment of the population. Instead, stage 3-4 lockdowns for the whole community have continued for no apparent scientific reason."
The doctors said specialist referrals from GPs had fallen dramatically as a result of patients fearing they would get sick if they went out.
"As a direct consequence of this delay, many will have poorer prognoses. This has especially been the case with 3 consultants who treat cancer," they wrote.
The doctors recommended the state of emergency not be continued past September 13, with an agreement made for parliament to be allowed to "openly discuss and debate appropriate medical plans".
The doctors want a panel of non-politically aligned medical and health-related experts be selected by a bipartisan parliamentary group to provide the transparent and active role of informing and advising government decisions and responses to the epidemic, as well as adequate measures, testing, and protection of the vulnerable, especially those in Aged Residential Care environments and their families and carers.
Victorian parliament will vote on the Premier's controversial bill to extend Victoria's state of emergency by another 12 months today.
The state recorded 70 new infections overnight, and five more deaths.
Originally published as Doctors' scathing letter to Dan Andrews