Can I get in? Dr No

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - EX­CLU­SIVE JILL POULSEN HEALTH AF­FAIRS

QUEENS­LAN­DERS are wait­ing days and even weeks to see a GP, with only three in 10 surg­eries able to pro­vide ap­point­ments within 24 hours, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by The Courier-Mail has found.

One hun­dred Queens­land doc­tors’ surg­eries were con­tacted to gauge wait­ing times.

Of the 100 con­tacted, 70 per cent had a 24-hour or longer wait while 30 per cent could make room on the same day. Surg­eries in re­gional Queens­land had even longer wait times.

Health Min­is­ter Steven Miles said the results con­firmed GPs had be­come less ac­ces­si­ble, par­tic­u­larly in re­gional ar­eas. “That means peo­ple who should be see­ing their GP are go­ing straight to the emer­gency de­part­ment (ED) or leav­ing their health con­cerns too long and then need­ing ur­gent treat­ment for con­di­tions that could have been pre­vented,” he said.

The Min­is­ter also took aim at the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to cap bulk billing and re­duce fund­ing for pri­mary health care.

“It has put so much pres­sure on GPs we’re see­ing them close or stop of­fer­ing bulk billing,” Dr Miles said.

“For ex­am­ple, in Mackay there are no gen­eral bulk billing doc­tors at all and in Glad­stone the only fully bulk billed ser­vice is only avail­able out­side nor­mal open­ing hours be­cause it’s the House Call Doc­tor.”

Queens­land Health has pre­vi­ously said 32 per cent of emer­gency de­part­ment pre­sen­ta­tions were for ail­ments a GP could treat.

Peo­ple have shown up at EDs com­plain­ing of night­mares, hic­cups and sun­burn.

“This puts in­creased pres­sure on our pub­lic emer­gency de­part­ments,” Mr Miles said.

Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Queens­land pres­i­dent Dr Dilip Dhu­pelia said he wanted Queens­lan­ders to go back to how their par­ents or grand­par­ents used doc­tors.

“Ev­ery­one should have a fam­ily doc­tor,” he said.

“The mes­sage I want to give is plan ahead for your ap­point­ments and go back to the olden days where you see your doc­tor reg­u­larly.

“That will give you bet­ter con­ti­nu­ity of care and when you do have an ur­gent prob­lem, speak to the prac­tice be­cause most will have emer­gency spots.”

Even fit, healthy peo­ple should see a GP at least twice a year, Dr Dhu­pelia said.

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