TEN per cent of all patients who visit Bathurst Hospital’s emergency department (ED) could have visited a GP, new data shows.
Of the 6096 patients who presented at the ED, 642 (10.5 per cent) had GP-worthy conditions, Bureau of Health Information (BHI) quarterly data from January to March 2017 shows.
Patients entering an ED are triaged in a number system from one to five.
Triage one is a life-threatening emergency, while five can be conditions including small cuts or abrasions.
Bathurst Hospital general manager Sue Patterson said while the number of triage five patients who presented at the Bathurst ED was significant, the BHI data showed the number of these patients had dropped 34.3 per cent compared with the same time last year to 642.
“The emergency department is for emergencies – [this] can overcrowd the department with less acute patients,” she said.
Ms Patterson said people should ideally see their own GP for “continuity of care” and planning was vital to avoid an unnecessary trip to the ED.
She said often a trip to the ED could be avoided by people checking they had an adequate supply of their medication prior to the weekend or a public holiday.
“I do [however] understand the need on the weekend if they do run out of medication,” she said.
“It’s about educating the community that the ED is for emergencies.”
Ms Patterson said a greater awareness of Bathurst’s After Hours GP Clinic and hotline will also help to reduce unnecessary visits to the ED.
The hotline number, 6333 2888, puts people in touch with a GP from 6pm to 8am Monday to Friday, then from noon on Saturday and all day Sunday and public holidays.
The After Hours GP Clinic operates out of the heritage building at Bathurst Hospital from 3-7pm on the weekend and public holidays, excluding Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Marathon Health operates the services. Its executive of health services Bryan Hoolahan said the clinic had been designed to assist people who do not have an emergency situation.
“It’s staffed by local doctors – it’s definitely having an impact on Bathurst, in particular the semi-urgent category [triage] four patients,” he said.
Bathurst’s after hours GP services have been operating for a couple of years, and Mr Hoolahan said they are growing in popularity.
More than 1800 people attended the After Hours GP Clinic last financial year, while a further 1500 called the GP hotline.