Lack of GPs forces ill to flock to hospital

AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 10:25 03/01/2014

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Southland Hospital's emergency department was inundated with patients yesterday because of the lack of doctors available in the city.

Stacey Blackie said she was forced to visit ED after she was unable to find a doctor in the city that would treat her baby.

"My nearly 12-month-old had a horrible virus over the Christmas period and our GP was unavailable, so was my husband's," she said on The Southland Times' Facebook page.

"In the end we took her to the hospital and thankfully were seen straight away," Ms Blackie said.

Emergency department clinical leader Adam McLeay said the department was again "exceptionally" busy. "We saw 119 patients on Wednesday and will probably see that many again."

"The increased demand is a complex issue, compounded by no GPs on public holidays and the holidays in general."

The department averages 100 patients a day, but during the past nine days, from December 23 to January 2, doctors had treated 1100 patients, 200 more than normal, Dr McLeay said.

The department had at least three extra doctors each day to cater for the increased number of patients, he said.

The Southland Times rang all the Invercargill doctor clinics listed with the Southern Primary Health Organisation and none was open yesterday, which was a public holiday.

Their phone messages said they operated on a reduced schedule over the holiday period.

Ms Blackie said she understood doctors also needed holidays but did not think it was reasonable she had to resort to the hospital for a simple virus.

The manager of the Invercargill After Hours Doctors service, which did have a doctor available, said it was "flat out" with back-to- back appointments yesterday.

"Needless to say, with only one GP, we have been really busy."

Residents needing to see a GP at the after hours clinic paid up to $100 a visit, depending on their age and their usual doctor's reciprocal agreement with the service, she said.

The After Hours Doctors service manager said she was not authorised to tell The Southland Times how many patients the clinic had seen.

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