Too many aged, too few doctors ... yet worse to come

By MEL MARTIN

WITH general practitioners already stretched to the limit, it's little wonder they do not find the time to visit patients at aged care facilities, and that's something that needs addressing urgently, according to Dr David Ellis.

"The number of GPs providing care to aged care facilities is falling Australia-wide ? less than a quarter of GPs do so," Dr Ellis, who is chief executive officer of the Mid North Coast Division of General Practice, said.

"The problem, primarily is a general undersupply of GPs across Australia.

"Aged care work requires GPs to leave their surgery to visit the facility, plus it involves lots of paperwork."

This costs GPs a lot of time out of their surgery, yet, Dr Ellis says, aged care work is poorly renumerated.

"The rebates the government is prepared to give GPs to leave their surgery, travel 30 minutes or sometimes even an hour to the facility, doesn't nearly cover their expenses.

"Then there is the fact that you're dealing with complex patients with multiple problems.

"And on top of that there is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with what a lot of GPs feel is not relevant to patient care."

Dr Ellis said an aged care workshop on Saturday, which attracted 110 participants from around the region, was part of an attempt to address these problems, while providing health and aged care workers an education and networking opportunity.

"It's about trying to work out what the problems are and working towards fixing them, trying to make the work more attractive to GPs," Dr Ellis said.

"Because the reality is there won't be any less older people in the future.

"My plea to the government is to do something to increase the number of GPs, and im- prove the system so that GPs don't lose any money by walking out of their surgery to attend aged care patients.

"They also need to reduce red tape, and we need a level of standardisation throughout the industry."

Speakers included Southern Cross University's Professor Colleen Cartwright discussing the practical, legal and ethical issues advances in medicine have created, and visiting psychogeriatrician at Coffs Harbour Health Campus Dr Robert Llewellyn-Jones discussing new approaches to late life depression.



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