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Is there a doctor in the house?

Posted: September 29, 2012 by sammiinthecity in Health

Doctor shortages are nothing new, they are in the hospitals, in regional towns and in our cities. The days when you could telephone your family doctor and get into see him on the same day are long gone.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data a million people throughout Australia couldn’t get an appointment to see a doctor in 2009.  More on this in the Age.

Doctor vacancies exist everywhere. Typing in ‘doctor’ in Seek brought up 494 opportunities in Australia. Rural Workforce Agency Victoria, funded by the government to recruit doctors into rural and regional areas of the state has a map dotted with vacancies.

And home calls, do they still exist?

Yes they do. It might not be your family doctor or the traditional service you’re used to but today we have a greater number of medical options available than in our grandparents’ days.

The traditional ways of being a doctor or seeking medical advice have evolved. Our society is no longer black and white. There are people who want a work life balance, those working in semi-retirement, those working two jobs and parents juggling children not to mention the shortage of doctors and an ageing population. Today there are more people working differently than the Monday to Friday nine to five models.

In a town of 1500 people only 50 kilometres from Melbourne a non-traditional medical service is in action it works just fine. The former obstetrician gynaecologist Dr Ferguson cares for patients from a quaint church from 3.00pm – 7.00pm most weekdays.

Little River locals can be seen by a doctor in a former church – it might not be traditional but it works.

Besides your family doctor, if you’re lucky enough to get one, there are some other medical services available:

There are also a number private services offering a locum doctor who will come to you too.

But it seems there are a number of people unaware of the medical options we have today.

All too often our emergency departments get overburdened with people waiting countless hours to see a doctor in an ‘emergency’, unnecessarily. When you present to an emergency department of an Australian hospital you are triaged, that is assessed by a nurse who determines you into an order of priority based on your medical needs.

According to the Department of Health Victoria 351,354 people were triaged and treated throughout the state’s emergency departments from January – March 2012 (note this figure does not include those arriving dead or those choosing to leave on their own accord before being treated by a doctor).

Of those people going to an emergency department nearly 40,000 were considered category 5. Patients triaged as category 5 are considered non-urgent so do they really need to be at an emergency department?

Click here to review the Victorian Health Services Performance reports.

If you are a non-urgent patient wouldn’t you much rather wait to see a doctor in the comfort of your own home? It is much better to be in pain, in your pyjamas in bed or rolling around the floor at home than waiting on an uncomfortable plastic chair under fluorescent lights sitting next to someone who might be sicker, smelly, unsightly or actually in need of seeing a doctor in an emergency.

It seems there are people who just don’t realise the options available to them and either go to the emergency department unnecessarily or wait until the medical practice they frequent is open, unnecessarily too.

In a vox populi put out to my Facebook friends only 10 per cent of respondents indicated they knew of having access to doctors after hours. An overwhelming 70 per cent of respondents indicated they would “battle through until business hours” before seeing a doctor if it wasn’t an emergency.

Battling through until the next day or going to the emergency department when it is not an emergency is unnecessary. You can see a doctor after hours without having to go to an emergency department.

Of course, if it is an emergency then go the emergency department closest to you, but if it is not here’s what you can do and it is simple.

When you need medical attention at night and your doctor is closed, ring your doctor first.

Your doctor will have left details on an answering machine, so listen to the recording, one of the practice doctors may be on duty or your call may be automatically diverted to the service that is providing the after-hours care.

It is as easy as phoning a friend.