DEMANDS for 24/7 access to medical services are placing an unsustainable workload on the doctors at Foster and Toora Medical Centres.
Recruitment and retention of rural general practitioners is proving more and more difficult and it is essential that measures be put in place now to sustain the Centres’ medical workforce for the long term.
As is the case in all small rural hospitals in Victoria, the South Gippsland Hospital at Foster does not have a government funded Accident and Emergency Department with resident medical officers. The South Gippsland Hospital relies on local general practitioners (GPs) from the Foster Medical Centre for medical services and these doctors share a roster to cover after-hours emergencies presenting to the Hospital Urgent Care Department.
From December 1, the doctor on call will only be attending overnight patients in Urgent Care who have serious / life threatening emergencies between the hours of 10pm and 8am.
Nursing staff will continue to assess patients on arrival at South Gippsland Hospital. In many instances, nurses are able to competently treat or refer patients with minor issues without the need for doctor attendance. A doctor will be called if the patient requires emergency medical care.
Where the matter is not of a serious / life threatening nature, patients will be advised to either attend a regional hospital with a funded and medically staffed Emergency Department (Latrobe Regional Health in Traralgon or Bass Coast Health in Wonthaggi) or alternatively see a local GP when the clinic opens. The clinic will keep ‘on the day appointments’ for these cases. Community members are encouraged to attend during clinic hours where possible to avoid the need to travel for minor illnesses / injuries overnight.
Telephone advice is available from the GP After Hours Helpline on 1800 022 222 between 6pm and 8am.
The doctors of the Foster and Toora Medical Centre are most appreciative of the community’s support through a very busy period and trust this strategy will assist in preserving its rural medical workforce for the years ahead. They have taken this step after a lot of deliberation and with reluctance.