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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31746


Ms HALL (9:58 AM) —On a number of occasions I have raised in this House my great concern about the doctor shortage on the Central Coast and how this is impacting on the everyday lives of people who live there. Today I would like to share with the committee the very sad and difficult experience that one woman had when her 91-year-old mother had to move to a high-care residential facility within the electorate.

The northern part of the Central Coast—Toukley, Buff Point, Blue Haven, Budgewoi, San Remo, Lake Haven, Chain Valley Bay, Gwandalan and Summerland Point—is particularly poorly serviced by doctors. The lady that I speak of contacted my office in great distress because her 91-year-old mother had to move to one of the local residential facilities because she had had a stroke and had poor mobility, and her doctor, who worked in a one-doctor practice, advised that he would be unable to continue caring for her in that facility.

She makes the point in a letter she sent to me—and she also sent a copy of this letter to the health minister—that until that time she thought that it was very exasperating that she had to wait two weeks to see her overworked doctor. But she was absolutely devastated when she found that her mother could not have a doctor visit her in the nursing home. After contacting 33 doctors on the Central Coast, all those doctors advised that they would not visit her in that facility.

One practice has 18 doctors in it and not one of those 18 doctors was prepared to go and visit her mother, who is in a nursing home that is only two kilometres at the most from their practice. Many other doctors had their books closed and the few that would accept this lady's mother as a patient said that she would be required to attend their surgery. This is an impossibility, because her mother is confined to a wheelchair and it is very difficult to get somebody who is confined to a wheelchair into a car, out of a car and into the doctor's surgery. When she rang my office I made some inquiries and was given the name of a couple of doctors who could possibly assist her. But thank goodness her mother's own doctor rethought his position and was prepared to travel some distance to visit her in that aged care facility.

On the northern part of the Central Coast there is something like one doctor to about 2,500 residents. In some areas it is one doctor to over 8,000 people. It is no wonder that doctors on the Central Coast are unable to take time out of their busy practices to go and visit those people who are in aged care facilities, and who desperately need to see a doctor. In many cases, those aged care facilities will not accept residents unless they have a doctor who will visit them there. There have been occasions where residential facilities have refused to accept residents simply because they did not have a doctor who would visit them in those facilities.

The story I have told you is about one person. But it is not an isolated event. This happens all the time. This happens when aged people go to residential care facilities and they cannot get a doctor to visit them there. The other side of the story is that people are waiting two weeks and more to see their doctor in the practice in their area. This is not good enough and I want the health minister to deal with this as a matter of urgency. (Time expired)