02 Jan Call for improved wait times
A DRAMATIC improvement in the wait time to report suspected child abuse cases is one of the first items on Rural Doctors’ Association of SA president Gerry Considine’s wishlist for 2017.
Dr Considine, who has been in the role since August, said there was a recent incident of a rural doctor having to wait on-hold for about three hours to the Child Abuse Reporting Line.
Under the Children’s Protection Act 1993, doctors are mandatory notifiers of suspected abuse.
“This is not just an issue for rural doctors, but it often affects rural doctors more, because of their isolation,” he said. “The doctor who had to wait on the line for three hours was from a town where there’s only two doctors, so resources are already stretched thin. It’s just not sustainable to have to wait that long to report a case. Given that many of SA’s rural general practitioners are in solo practices or working with limited staff, to have to listen to on-hold music for hours is ridiculous.”
Dr Considine is lobbying for a system where reporting could be done securely online, so that cases could be triaged according to their urgency. He says there already a portal for secure online reporting, but the departmental website states that “all serious concerns must be reported via the report line and not via the online reporting system”.
“Our GPs are concerned about vulnerable patients in rural areas and worry that if it is this hard for a doctor to report suspected child abuse, what hope do families have?’ he said.
“This is simply not appropriate use of a rural doctor’s time, and it is extremely unfair on the patients they are not able to see while they are made to wait on the phone.”
Another major issue the association is concerned about is adequate staffing for some of the larger rural emergency departments, including Mount Gambier and Port Augusta. Dr Considine said Wallaroo and Port Lincoln were also at risk.
“The rural GPs in these towns who are on a roster at the emergency department are finding that there’s less and less GPs willing to work on that roster,” he said.
“We’re calling for more locum support, so these GPs can keep doing their jobs, but also not get burnt out in the process. In the long-run it would cost less to support the doctors who are already in the region and passionate about what they do.”
Dr Considine is also calling for improved communication between Country Health SA and rural doctors.
“There’s a lot of guidelines that get released through Country Health SA but we’d like to have higher input into these guidelines,” he said. “We’d like to see everyone involved from the start, rather than giving feedback once guidelines are already released.”