Can I get in? Dr No
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.