Medical access and care are issues that are fundamental to the well-being of society.
They happen to be hot talking points especially around election time.
On the subject of the after hours GP there is often debate and discussion around their role within the medical sector.
From a lack of resources and application of their skills to changing the behaviours of patients who see them as a one-stop solution, there is a degree of misinformation and misunderstanding about their value.
Here we will delve into these matters in more detail.
There are two key examples that are prevalent when discussing with after hours GP – the home call and the professional who leaves their office door open beyond the usual 5pm deadline or before the 8am-9am window. This gives individuals a chance to see their trusted specialist when it is convenient for them, because the ability to leave the home or work can be difficult for citizens that are limited in these capacities. What would normally be a scheduled checkup can force patients to head to the emergency room or even worse, put off their care and hope that the ailment solves itself with the aid of some prescribed medicines or treatments. That level of convenience becomes a major asset.
The topic of after hours GP, like many issues in Australia, is often viewed through the prism of communities in metropolitan or dense suburban areas of the country. However, there is a multitude of patients based in isolated rural regions where access to quality medical care is a genuine struggle because of their location. Having the ability to see a specialist outside of regular hours or calling in to the property becomes paramount in these instances.
The rebates that have been offered to patients when they see an after hours GP for a home visitation will vary. As much as $150 can be afforded as a rebate for an urgent call out, whilst this will diminish for residents who who are receiving a non-urgent or general checkup. The need for specialists to keep their doors open late at night or early in the morning, as well as those who have to depart in transit for a home call makes for an expensive endeavour where those costs have to be passed onto the patient. Problems arise when those fees and policies around rebates are not effectively communicated and an individual can be handed a bill that they did not calculate ahead of time.
One of the talking points that can cast doubt on the effectiveness of the after hours GP is the expertise and credentials of the practitioner. There have been cases where less experienced operators see this program as a window to gain that experience or practices want to use it as a testing ground for those newcomers. If this happens to be the situation for the patient where they are not given a trusted doctor, then it becomes a wasted exercise.
When stepping back to take a grander picture of the validity of the after hours GP practice, it is imperative that the elderly, members of the disabled community and those children and adults have the capacity to source specialist care when they need it. Much of the debate can be centered around logistical concerns or costs that are incorporated with the programs themselves, but they are matters that can be dealt with on the surface. Many individuals have chronic injuries and illnesses that they manage and with work commitments and limitations that hamper their movement, these practitioners who work outside the regular boundaries become vital assets.
The after hours GP will be worth the time of the patient if they have proceeded with a call out and are aware of the costs and implications of the program. That is the personal benefit, but even for those who are outside of this setting it can help to alleviate waiting times inside a hospital or practice and allow for doctors to cater to more patients.