Dr Sheraz Dost treating Kaliyah Shirvington, 2, while she sits on her mother, Leilani Cooper-Shirvington's lap.
Dr Sheraz Dost treating Kaliyah Shirvington, 2, while she sits on her mother, Leilani Cooper-Shirvington's lap. contributed

'Essential' after hours doctor service facing the axe

AS A mother of two whose partner works shift work, Leilani Cooper-Shirvington knows all too well how essential an after hours doctor service is for her family.

Mrs Cooper-Shirvington called the House Call Doctor on Thursday night because her two-year-old daughter Kaliyah was vomiting and had a high fever.

She said when she had a similar situation with her son Keifer, prior to House Call Doctor being available in Rockhampton, she called 13 Health (for medical advice) and then went to the hospital where she waited over two hours for son to see a doctor.

Mrs Cooper-Shirvington spoke with The Bulletin about her experience with House Call Doctor service after its chief operating officer, Craig Glover, raised concerns the Medicare-funded doctor service was at risk of being shut down.

A Deloitte Access Economics report was released on November 21 in response to calls for the home-visiting Medicare rebate to be cut in the Federal Government's current Medicare Benefits Schedule Review.

The report, commissioned by the industry body representing after hours doctors, The National Association of Medical Deputising Services, found without patients having access to house calls the cost to the health care system nationally would be $724 million more.

House Call Doctor Chief Operating Officer Craig Glover said it was an attack on an essential Medicare service that had proven to keep patients out of hospital emergency departments.

Mr Glover said no one from the industry group representing after hours home visiting doctors had been asked to participate in the review.

The Deloitte report shows home visits save taxpayers on average $240 when a patient is treated in their home as opposed to an emergency department when they have GPtype presentations.

However, for Mrs Cooper-Shirvington, having access to House Call Doctors isn't about the cost savings.

She said usually it was only one child that got sick after hours when the healthy child was asleep.

Mrs Cooper-Shirvington said to go to the hospital at night with one sick child, she'd have to wake the healthy child up who would then spend their time roaming around the waiting room, annoying other patients waiting to be seen.

And it's not just the Rockhampton mother using the service.

Since the service started operating in Rockhampton July last year, doctors have made over 13,000 house calls.

Mrs Cooper-Shirvington said her family members and friends had used House Call Doctors.

"I've had elderly friends who haven't been able to get in a car (use it)," she said.

Mrs Cooper-Shirvington said her children were more relaxed with a strange doctor coming to see them at home than having to go see a doctor at the hospital or a GP clinic.

The Deloitte report calculated the cost to Queensland's Health Department if house calls were axed would be $24.9 million. Over four years of budget forward estimates that would be almost $100 million. Nationally the figure is $724 million.

Dr Harvey said Medicare-funded home visits were now available to nearly 80 percent of the Australian population thanks to companies like House Call Doctor delivering the essential service to the regions.

The Department of Health has been asked to respond to the concerns about the loss of the service.

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