I’m A GP, And I Don’t Know When Things Will Be ‘Okay’ Again

These are just some of the emotions I have experienced in my work as a GP over these past months.  When coronavirus began to emerge from China, I was initially filled with an inflated sense of security that if the virus did arrive, we here would have the power, intellect and sophistication to control it rapidly.   But perhaps I was too influenced, subconsciously, by all those apocalyptic films from my childhood where mankind always came together to beat any obstacle. While restaurants and bars were ordered to close in Italy, cases of chest infections in fit and healthy patients began to appear here, some unable to explain the severity of their symptoms other than an influenza-like illness. The first few admissions from our local hospital began to trickle in, closely followed by the first few deaths – initially the very frail with multiple comorbidities, but within a few days whole households began to fall ill. Our laissez faire lockdown eventually arrived as surgery consultations filled with patients calling in with flu-like symptoms, and confusion was rife. There are plenty of iPhone-savvy eighty- year olds, but the small number without access to email or a smartphone have found it difficult. Surgeries like mine have remained open throughout this time, but we’re seeing patients opt to stay away from the health service due to fear of contracting the virus. Patients need to be encouraged to seek help but with the pandemic expected to stay with us for some time I cannot see how services can resume to a pre-Covid state – leaving the health of the country in aprecarious position. While this impasse remains, patients will continue to hesitate about attending for blood pressure checks or cervical smears – and who can blame them? Watching images of tubes and buses filled with commuters leaves me extremely anxious about the next few weeks. I expecting we will see a rise in patients presenting with Covid symptoms, being unable to test them and whole families falling ill. Less of an apocalyptic movie, and more reminiscentof Groundhog Day. I fight this inner battle between my heart and head every day.  My son’s a sensitive soul who takes comfort in being held – to cut him off so suddenly has been immensely hard, and I worry daily what impactthis will have on him, especially when he’s anxious about me going to work and I can’t even hold him to console him.