NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said the federal government’s proposed scrapping of the after-hours GP home doctor service would flood NSW emergency departments with non-urgent cases that should be seen by a GP.
Mr Secord described the proposed scrapping of the after-hours service as a ‘short sighted backward step’, putting extra pressure on the state health and hospital system and increasing the presentation of elderly patients and young children.
He was responding to a Fairfax media report on the likely impacts of the proposal.
‘If the service is scrapped, elderly patients will have more difficulty in accessing an after-hours GP in western Sydney,’ Mr Secord said.
Since January this year, Echonetdaily has reported on a number of occasions about long hospital waiting times on the north coast. Mr Secord believes these times can only further balloon out if the GP service is withdrawn.
‘The GP after hours service means that the elderly are not clogging up emergency departments with minor ailments that should be treated by a GP. Emergency departments should be there for emergencies.’
Mr Secord said the removal of the service would see unnecessary ambulance call-outs – which are at record levels – and see elderly patients deferring critical preventative visits to their GPs.
In addition, it would affect elderly patients with mobility problems as well as young children who become ill outside normal business hours.
On June 22, the independent Bureau of Health Information released data showing western Sydney emergency departments were the busiest in the state. Western Sydney had the five most under pressure enormous departments.
It found that the state experienced the busiest January-March quarter on record with 654,189 emergency department presentations. In addition, there were 277,218 ambulance responses in NSW.
Statewide, almost 27 per cent of patients waited in emergency departments longer than four hours – the national benchmark – but western Sydney emergency departments were significantly busier.
‘Sadly, patients wait at every stage in NSW. They wait for an ambulance; they wait outside the emergency department and they wait inside the emergency department. They wait for a bed and then they are discharged early to make room for other patients,’ Mr Secord said.