The topic of the after hours GP continues to make news in Australia as the country faces evolutions, alterations and changes to the way in which people manage their health.
Rather than having a one-way discussion that advocates for one position over the other, it is worthwhile taking a dispassionate look at this particular sector to see where the value lies, where challenges remain and how residents can try and get the best of both worlds.
Like any nationally run program there will be positives that should be championed and expanded upon, with simultaneous shortcomings that have to be fixed and rectified in order to run smoothly.
Let us open up that discussion right here.
Convenience For The Patient
Whether a medical professional arrives for a home visit or leaves their office open during the late hours of the night and early hours of the morning, the after hours GP was designed for convenience. In those rare circumstances when an emergency room visit cannot be made for a litany of reasons and the best possible care at this time is to see a trusted and known GP who understands the ailment, the symptoms and the remedy, this program was designed to cater to those needs. Australians will place a high price on convenience and if they believe they have the resources to pay for this need, then that should be afforded to them.
Drain on Medical Resources
The fact of the matter is there are only so many trained and operating professionals who could work as an after hours GP in Australia. An overwhelming majority of these professionals are booked all year round from January to December during normal business hours (9am-5pm Monday to Friday). The more these individuals are sent to patient’s homes or to keep their lights on during the night, the greater the drain on their resources.
Market Demand For Program
Whilst we are learning more every year about the logistics involved with the after hours GP across all states in Australia, there is still a clear demand for the program to be ongoing. General practitioners may feel a threat from those who are willing to visit a home during the middle of the night or early hours of the morning, but report after report this decade illustrates that many elderly Australians prefer this method over a booking during the day. It remains a niche that can be catered for so long as there are regulations that are adhered to.
Threats to Medicare
What has been reported in recent years regarding the after hours GP is that medical offices have decided to cut corners in some instances, exploiting the Medicare program that is intended to prevent this drop in standard. A task force examined the program in 2017 to conclude that the rise in demand for home visits and after hours care was not adequately handled, issuing out under-qualified doctors to undermine the value of the care that patients require.
Giving the Patient the Option
At the end of the day, there are a litany of different medical services on offer to the community and the after hours GP simply fulfills one of those services. From bulk billed offices to specified medical professional operators such as physicians, dermatologists, anesthesiologists and cardiologists, there will always be a ways and means of ensuring that patients can access the best quality care when they need it in Australia.
Although there are problems and challenges that are ongoing with the after hours GP, this is an initiative that keeps certain patients away from emergency waiting rooms and subsidizes extra work for those professionals who are willing and able to be on call. State governments and private medical enterprises have the responsibility to ensure this initiative does not undermine Medicare or stretch the profession too thin for resources. If they can meet that challenge, then individuals should feel empowered to call up a doctor they know and trust after normal business hours.