The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister update the council on community health during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): I thank the honourable member for his question. Australia has responded well to COVID-19. Governments across Australia have acted swiftly and appropriately, consistent with the advice of the AHPPC nationally and our Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, in South Australia. The primary focus of the response has been on the coronavirus itself and the rollout of a suite of public health measures ranging from social distancing to reducing crowded places to staying home when sick.
COVID-19 has also been at the forefront of the minds of individual South Australians. Health professionals are now becoming concerned that, focused on COVID-19, people are not giving sufficient attention to other health concerns, particularly chronic conditions. That is why the Marshall Liberal government launched the Keep Well, Keep Connected campaign, encouraging South Australians to look after their general health and to stay connected with their GP.
During the pandemic we have seen a reduction in emergency department presentations, ambulance call-outs and GP visits. In the first two weeks of April, South Australia's major metropolitan hospitals received about 8,000 ED presentations, a 32 per cent decrease compared with the same time last year. There were approximately 8,400 hospital inpatient admissions to our major metropolitan hospitals in the first two weeks of that month, which is a 25 per cent decrease compared with the same time in 2019.
A survey of South Australian general practitioners taken in April shows approximately 78 per cent had noticed a considerable drop in patient numbers, and 85 per cent of respondents were concerned about the impact of COVID-19 and isolation on chronic health conditions. While presentations have been trending upwards since, they do remain below last year's levels. There is concern that this fall may relate to South Australians who do need care, whether in our hospitals or with GPs, but who choose not to seek that care, perhaps out of concern about contracting COVID-19 or adding to the demand in hospitals.
Concern about a lack of engagement is shared by many health professionals, including health professionals beyond government. In late April, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners launched its own campaign to encourage people to seek medical help. The campaign named Expert Advice Matters has run nationally and complements the South Australian campaign in getting out the message: it is safe to seek medical help.
South Australians have responded to the coronavirus in an exemplary way, listening and complying with public health advice. It is critical that they listen and comply with this advice also. They should not delay seeking treatment for other health conditions. The message from our public health officers and clinicians is clear: if you have an acute illness or a chronic health condition, including mental illness, you should seek the care that you need. Our healthcare sites and staff have strong plans in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure.