HEALTH HOTLINE

By BELINDA SCOTT

ANY way of getting a service to people is a good thing Stephen Blunden said yesterday.

Mr Blunden, the chief executive officer of the Mid North Coast's Durri Aboriginal medical service, and a member of the North Coast Area Health Consultative Council, was upbeat about the proposal to establish a national medical health hotline.

He said there was always a long waiting list for doctors and he believed his clients would use it, especially if it was free.

Under the plan, which will be discussed at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting next month, a 24-hour national call centre staffed by triage nurses would direct sick people to a pharmacy, doctor or hospital, depending on the seriousness of their complaints.

The plan has been attacked by several doctors' organisations who say it is 'a gimmick' and will not not reduce emergency department admissions. The Federal Opposition has said it will not work unless callers are put in touch with triage centres in their own communities.

Mr Blunden said doctors were simply 'protecting their patch'.

NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA) media officer John Moran said the NSWNA generally supported the initiative, which was working well in other countries and in Western Australia.

Gayle Jones of Coffs Harbour says she's not one to race off to the doctor herself, but a national health diagnosis hotline staffed by nurses might be helpful for anyone with a baby.

"If I felt sick, I'd wait it out and let my own immune system kick in, unless I was on my deathbed, then I'd go to a doctor first," Ms Jones said.

"But for a young mother with a baby, it would be a good thing to use, instead of racing off to the doctor first.

"A young mother could be frantic if, for example, her baby was throwing up everywhere ? and sometimes you can't get to a doctor straight away."

Julie Carlyle says she does not honestly think the proposed helpline will help.

As a mother of four children, the youngest eight-month-old Lachlan, Mrs Carlyle said she had plenty of experience of hospital emergency departments, "we always call emergency and they always tell you to come in and that's exactly what will happen (with a hotline)".

Brett Carlyle said the health hotline was being set up to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments but he did not think it would help because people going to emergency needed to be there.

"I can't see it reducing any waiting times. It's a Band-aid, it would be better to spend the money and get people through emergency a bit quicker. The worst thing is the long wait ? you can be in there for one or two days because there's no bed available anywhere else.

"It comes back to the lack of places to study medicine in the country ? doctors trained in the country would be much more prepared to stay there."

Laurie Dugan, who is visiting the Coffs Coast for a holiday from his home in Sydney's Manly, said he would use such a service and he thought it would be popular with pensioners, who were finding it increasingly difficult to see their own doctor as soon as they would like to.

"I think it is a great idea," Mr Dugan said.

"At least you would get advice ? it's not always doctors or hospitals that are the best solution ? I had a pinched nerve and had tests and took pills, but it was a chiropractor that was the best solution."HEALTH HOTLINE

By BELINDA SCOTT

ANY way of getting a service to people is a good thing Stephen Blunden said yesterday.

Mr Blunden, the chief executive officer of the Mid North Coast's Durri Aboriginal medical service, and a member of the North Coast Area Health Consultative Council, was upbeat about the proposal to establish a national medical health hotline.

He said there was always a long waiting list for doctors and he believed his clients would use it, especially if it was free.

Under the plan, which will be discussed at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting next month, a 24-hour national call centre staffed by triage nurses would direct sick people to a pharmacy, doctor or hospital, depending on the seriousness of their complaints.

The plan has been attacked by several doctors' organisations who say it is 'a gimmick' and will not not reduce emergency department admissions. The Federal Opposition has said it will not work unless callers are put in touch with triage centres in their own communities.

Mr Blunden said doctors were simply 'protecting their patch'.

NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA) media officer John Moran said the NSWNA generally supported the initiative, which was working well in other countries and in Western Australia.

Gayle Jones of Coffs Harbour

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says she's not one to race off to the doctor herself, but a national health diagnosis hotline staffed by nurses might be helpful for anyone with a baby.

"If I felt sick, I'd wait it out and let my own immune system kick in, unless I was on my deathbed, then I'd go to a doctor first," Ms Jones said.

"But for a young mother with a baby, it would be a good thing to use, instead of racing off to the doctor first.

"A young mother could be frantic if, for example, her baby was throwing up everywhere ? and sometimes you can't get to a doctor straight away."

Julie Carlyle says she does not honestly think the proposed helpline will help.

As a mother of four children, the youngest eight-month-old Lachlan, Mrs Carlyle said she had plenty of experience of hospital emergency departments, "we always call emergency and they always tell you to come in and that's exactly what will happen (with a hotline)".

Brett Carlyle said the health hotline was being set up to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments but he did not think it would help because people going to emergency needed to be there.

"I can't see it reducing any waiting times. It's a Band-aid, it would be better to spend the money and get people through emergency a bit quicker. The worst thing is the long wait ? you can be in there for one or two days because there's no bed available anywhere else.

"It comes back to the lack of places to study medicine in the country ? doctors trained in the country would be much more prepared to stay there."

Laurie Dugan, who is visiting the Coffs Coast for a holiday from his home in Sydney's Manly, said he would use such a service and he thought it would be popular with pensioners, who were finding it increasingly difficult to see their own doctor as soon as they would like to.

"I think it is a great idea," Mr Dugan said.

"At least you would get advice ? it's not always doctors or hospitals that are the best solution ? I had a pinched nerve and had tests and took pills, but it was a chiropractor that was the best solution."



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