GPs have resorted to making their own gowns as a shortage of personal protective equipment grips.
There are no gowns, goggles, shields or gloves for central Victoria's primary health network to supply the region's general practices amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Murray PHN chief executive Matt Jones says the health network has only been provided N95 and surgical masks.
General practices are being forced to ration their existing personal protective equipment, with its supply at the mercy of the federal government.
"There are significant efforts being undertaken to source and access more PPE across Australia," Mr Jones said.
Murray PHN has not received advice about what health providers should do if they run out of PPE.
Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said the government has to do more.
"The government needs to make this a top priority and get supplies to the region," Ms Chesters said.
"The Health Minister says it's coming, but it is needed now and he needs to give people a date when it will arrive.
"This is an urgent issue for the government if we are going to stop the virus."
Health Minister Greg Hunt has been approached to provide information about when supplies would be replenished and what practices should do if they run out of supplies.
General practitioner Nicole Townsend says the availability of protective equipment is critical in being able to see patients.
"We ordered 100 gowns and masks four weeks ago and used them all in two weeks," Dr Townsend said.
Sitting around the lunch room table, Dr Townsend and her colleagues came up with the idea of sewing their own protective gowns to address the critical need.
"We had a prototype and got some family together and changed our medical clinic into a sewing room and started using the gowns this week," Dr Townsend said.
One hundred metres of discounted fabric was acquired through local Spotlight and Lincraft stores to create the vibrant gowns.
Dr Townsend is now calling on the community to help address this critical need.
"We are calling out to people to donate fabric, their time and their sewing skills," Dr Townsend said.
"If we can get 100 people to make 10 gowns each, that could potentially solve our PPE issue in Bendigo."
Mr Jones said the PPE crisis is significantly impacting on the Australian health system's ability to respond effectively.
"In reality, this is an international pandemic that requires a community-based response," Mr Jones said.
"We are beginning to see a range of innovative community-based efforts that can help people access safe, effective health care, while protecting our health providers.
The gowns Dr Townsend and her team have made are 100 per cent cotton and when laundered at 60 degrees Celsius and steam pressed, are suitable for re-use.
Dr Townsend said doctors at her clinic, Lucan Street's The GP Clinic, are using approximately 10 gowns per day, only for respiratory patients, who are screened prior to entry.
"We anticipate that we will see 25 people a day during the coronavirus peak," Dr Townsend said.
The gowns are worn over surgical scrubs and a new gown is worn each time a new respiratory patient is seen.
The GP Clinic is well stocked with gloves, but masks are also reaching critically low levels.
"We have 40 of the N95 masks left, provided by Murray PHN, which were initially positioned as single use only," Dr Townsend said.
"We have done research and found on the World Health Organisation website that N95 masks can be used multiple times.
"We are using one mask per day and labelling those at the end of the day so that if we have no other solution, we can potentially go back and use those masks again."
A gown pattern has been created for keen sewers and anyone who can donate fabric or their skills is urged to email firstname.lastname@example.org
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