IN the lead up to the busy Christmas holiday period patients are being urged to rethink going to the emergency department when they are unwell in a bid to curb unnecessary visits to the ER.
With one in five visits not requiring emergency care, the WA Primary Health Alliance yesterday launched the ‘Choose Well, When You’re Worried Sick’ campaign.
WAPHA chair Dr Richard Choong said knowing your health care options before you got sick or injured was extremely important for individuals and the entire health system.
“For some critical things, your local emergency department is irreplaceable,” he said.
“However, your GP knows far more about you, your family and your medical history, so when it’s not that urgent, they can give you the best medical advice and treatment.
“More than 200,000 people are visiting WA emergency departments every year with ailments that could be seen by a GP.
“At a cost of at least $600 per visit, that means a $120 million bill for taxpayers.”
Dr Colin Hughes said cuts to after hours funding for GPs meant emergency departments were particularly vulnerable to an influx of non-emergency cases during the festive season.
“There has been a real failure of policy by the Federal Government that has resulted in many GPs shutting their doors after hours and on public holidays,” he said.
“In the old days, doctors remained on call at all hours and when a patient contacted them they knew their history and could offer advice on whether they needed to present to the emergency department.
“This doesn’t happen anymore because the Federal Government cut funding for after hours services for GPs.
“Many doctors have said if you’re not going to pay us for working an 80 hour week then we won’t do it.”
Dr Hughes called on the Federal Government to lift the Medicare rebate for GP visits.
“GPs are now seeing patients for $38 a consultation which is absolutely ludicrous,” he said.
“It costs $400 for a patient to attend an emergency department and $110 to visit a GP in real terms.
“It just doesn’t make sense not to reward GPs to be available after hours.”
Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt urged people to find a GP and build a relationship with them before they got sick.
“Regularly visiting the same GP means there is a comprehensive medical history that will help that GP and their colleagues in the same general practice pick up things early, or before they become a problem,” he said.
The “Choose Well, When You’re Worried Sick” campaign will run from November to February.
For more information visit http://www.myhealthcareoptions.com.au
People should still go to an emergency department for:
· Chest pain
· Severe headaches they’ve never had before
· Trouble with speech or movement
· A very sick child
· Serious accident or illness