The key body representing general practitioners says now is not the time to throw blame at GPs following a claim by Queensland health authorities the hospital crisis is partly caused by a lack of regional and local doctors.
On Wednesday, health authorities warned parents to pack snacks ahead of anticipated long waits at the Queensland’s Children’s Hospital, as staff continued to deal with a large number of kids presenting with respiratory viruses and COVID-19.
Both Health Minister Yvette D’Ath and Deputy Premier Steven Miles attributed some of the strain on hospitals to the lack of GPs, but called on 50-50 federal funding to help rectify the issue.
Miles said there was record demand on Monday at emergency departments and workers were getting smashed.
What we have is an absolute collapse in access to primary healthcare, he said.
Lots and lots of people who can’t get to see a GP . . . many GPs are declining to see people with respiratory illnesses sometimes before they can get a COVID test, sometimes not at all, and that is driving lots and lots of people to our emergency departments.
He said the situation was causing some people to delay healthcare, making their condition more acute by the time they visited a doctor or hospital.
The RACGP responded later on Wednesday, saying now was not the time to throw blame at GPs and general practice teams.
We are doing our best in very challenging circumstances and need the full support of all levels of governments, RACGP president Karen Price said.
Never before has the family doctor been so important, and yet we are facing a future where the long-term sustainability of general practice care is in jeopardy and GPs are being blamed for an overstretched hospital system.
Health systems throughout Australia have continued to struggle with COVID-19 cases and the beginning of what health experts have predicted to be the worst flu season in almost a decade.
Queensland Children’s Hospital posted online on Tuesday explaining they were treating large numbers of children with croup, RSV, the flu and COVID-19, and subsequently the emergency department was very busy.
The hospital said staff were working hard to see every child as soon as possible.
But wait times may be longer than usual as we see the sickest and most seriously injured children first, the post said.
As always, your local hospital is well-placed to care for your child close to home. For less urgent matters, please consider taking your child to your local GP.
But dozens of parents have reported they cannot take their children to their GP for coughs or standard flu symptoms due to restrictions surrounding COVID-19.
One parent reported a five-hour wait on Tuesday night at the hospital.
The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne has faced similar capacity pressures in the past week.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said GPs were working tirelessly.
I know many of them have closed their books to new patients because they just can’t fit them in, she said.
We have so many GPs retiring and there’s not enough GPs coming into replace them.
I have GPs in towns like Townsville who retire and there’s another 300 aged care residents who are not being cared for.
So what do they do? The staff pick up the phone to the Queensland Ambulance Service and ask for an ambulance to take that person to hospital because they don’t have qualified staff and they no longer are being serviced by GPs in their area.
D’Ath reiterated her calls for 50-50 health funding from the federal government, saying there were 520 long-stay patients in Queensland hospitals currently who did not require medical care, but needed an NDIS or aged care package.