The Katanning community has come to the aid of a local medical practice after it sounded an urgent call for face masks in the face of the inevitable spread of COVID-19. St Luke’s Family Practice staff member Paula Bolto said the centre was experiencing the effects of a worldwide shortage of protective masks. She said the practice only had a few masks on hand before receiving community donations this week. “It is not just us, it is a worldwide shortage. I hope they come, but everyone we know is working extremely hard to get them,” she said. Ms Bolto said the centre was working with medical services across the State to source the masks to ensure practices were stocked as the crisis escalated in the coming months. She said although the situation was evolving every day, the practice was taking drastic steps to ensure the community’s safety. The practice is now offering consultations over the phone for vulnerable patients or those in self-isolation or quarantine. It is also encouraging patients to avoid cash payments to reduce the risk of spreading infection within the practice. “For quite a few weeks now we have made enormous changes in how we operate the practice,” she said. “There’s very strict screening in place over the phone. “But that looks like it will change by the end of the week, and phone consults will hopefully be open to everybody. “We need to reassure patients that if you need medical attention you will get it. “Doctors will be doing phone consults with the patients to assess them, and if they deem they are fit and it warrants an examination, then they will be allowed to come into the practice.” Ms Bolto said although St Luke’s wanted to reduce foot traffic and ensure patients complied with social distancing recommendations, the public would get the care they needed if they came in.