NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord has called on the Federal Government to keep its after-hours home doctor service – which is the subject of a review. Removal of the service would affect the State’s emergency departments which are buckling under the pressure of demands and State and Federal cuts.
The service was introduced by the Howard Government in 2005 in a bid to reduce unnecessary visits to emergency departments. It has been found to reduce unnecessary ambulance call-outs and unnecessary presentations to emergency departments.
The service is used mainly by children under the age of four and by the elderly with mobility issues. Mr Secord has called on Federal Minister Sussan Ley to retain the service – saying its removal would see patients “flood” NSW emergency departments with minor ailments and conditions. He also wrote to NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner urging her to contact her Federal counterparts.
Research by Deloitte has found that the after-hours home doctor service saved Federal, State and Territory governments about $724 million in costs a year. It also found that an average home visit cost $128 compared to up to $368 for a “typical” self-referral visitation to an emergency department or a $1,351 ambulance trip.
In the 2015-16 financial year, $72 million was spent by the Federal Government on the NSW service and 695,715 patients here used the service. On December 7, the independent Bureau of Health Information reported that more than 650,000 patients visited a NSW emergency department in the July to September quarter, an increase of 3,900 compared to one year ago.
In addition, more than 148,000 patients travelled to the emergency department by ambulance in the July to September quarter.