New after-hours medical help for south-west patients

SOUTH-WEST Victorians will have better access to after-hours medical services under a new system being rolled out by the federally-funded Great South Coast Medicare Local (GSCML).

Starting with Timboon, Camperdown and Terang, the revamp of general practice clinic rosters will be expanded across the five municipalities of Warrnambool City and the shires of Moyne, Corangamite, Glenelg and Southern Grampians.

Better after-hours access to local GPs will be combined with two telephone advice services providing initial guidance on treatment and the nearest available clinic. It could also include video conferences, telemedicine, home monitoring and other innovative styles of medical care.

The aim is to reduce the number of non-emergency patients travelling to hospital.

Medical Local will deliver funding for all approved after-hours GP services from next financial year, according to regional acting chief executive Carolyn Searle.

“Our funding will not include emergency care, which will be the responsibility of public hospitals,” she said.

“It will be important to fund services to ensure people do not end up in emergency departments unnecessarily. We want the resources of our hospitals to be used to provide services that cannot be made available elsewhere.

“Medicare Local is aiming for a new system of providing after-hours care that will have choices about where to go, regardless of where people live.”

Ms Searle has stepped into the leadership role until a new chief executive role is found.

Great South Coast Medicare Local is seeking comment from GPs, other health service providers and consumers about  reforms via survey forms or the GSCML  website.

“There are many different reasons why someone needs to seek medical care outside of normal general practice opening hours,” Ms Searle said.

“Quite often the choices they have depend on where they live.”

pcollins@standard.fairfax.com.au

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