Tassie after-hours care saved by the hair of its chinny-chin-chin

4 minute read

The state has swooped in to help set up a new after-hours clinic in the north of Hobart, after the area’s only other clinic announced it would close at the end of May.

The Tasmanian government has subsidised the setup of a new after-hours GP clinic in northern Hobart, as the only other clinic in the area is set to close its doors by the end of the month. 

Earlier this month, Tasmanian health minister Guy Barnett announced that northern Hobart’s After Hours Doctor would be closing its doors at the end of May. 

The practice’s owner, Better Medical, said it would be merging the service with another after-hours practice in the east of Hobart. 

Speaking to The Medical Republic, Tasmanian GP Dr Mark Baldock said that he was concerned that corporates were closing practices to push patients to their other clinics while maintaining profit margins. 

But without local after-hours GP services, patients would likely be pushed to visit urgent care centres in the city or the Royal Hobart Hospital emergency department, both of which were over 10km away and were not general practice services. 

“I see UCCs as an extension of general practice but not for chronic disease management, for acute condition management,” said Dr Baldock. 

“Chronic disease management needs a space in the after-hours as well, because we have thousands of people missing out on general practice appointments every day of the year across Australia. 

“Without being open extended hours, [GPs] are never going to see all the patients we need to.” 

In response to the closure, the Tasmanian government has stepped in to subsidise the setup of a new after-hours clinic in north of the city. 

“We understand how important having access to an after-hours GP service is for people in Hobart’s northern suburbs, and we have acted quickly to secure this positive outcome,” said Mr Barnett. 

“This will ensure the community is not left without this important primary health service when the existing clinic closes its doors at the end of May. 

“It follows similar efforts to save GP practices at St Marys, Bridgewater and East Devonport, and once again demonstrates our commitment to ensure Tasmanians have access to GP services – despite the repeated failures of the federal labor government.” 

As of 1 June, the Doctors After Hours GP practice in Derwent Park will provide GP services from 5-10pm during the week and 9am-10pm over the weekends. 

According to Dr Baldock, who will be heading up the practice, the Tasmanian government subsidised the setup of the practice, however it would be privately run going forward. 

When asked about his concerns about keeping the service afloat, Dr Baldock said that in his experience finding GPs to employ wasn’t the problem. 

“Obviously there’s an erosion of general practice services [in Tasmania],” he said. 

“My view is that the modern challenge of general practice is to be accessible, and without being open extended hours it’s very difficult to be accessible.” 

But extended-hours services are met with many of the problems that plague the rest of general practice, namely insufficient rebates. 

“What has to be recognised is the increase in costs of providing extended hour services,” said Dr Baldock. 

“Medicare reflects that somewhat in the increased rebates for certain item numbers in the evenings and on the weekends.” 

But it’s not enough, he said. 

He held little hope of improved rebates but flagged the need for funding for allied health support in after-hours care. 

“We find that, particularly in Hobart, accessing X-ray facilities, for example, in an after-hour setting is extremely limited. 

“In fact, it’s nonexistent, other than in the public hospital emergency departments.  

“If you want to keep people out of public hospitals that have limb injuries that are not in need of surgical intervention or orthopedic review, then allow X-rays in in after-hours general practices and subsidise the radiographer that has to do the imaging and the cost of the infrastructure that you need.” 

Dr Baldock said funding to help attract nurses and to provide security would also help.  

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×