Call to lighten the ED load

By Ewen McRae

A campaign aiming to build awareness about out-of-hours medical services as an alternative to crowded emergency departments was launched last week.

The campaign by North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network is in response to data that shows in the two years to 2016, more than 250,000 patients attended an emergency department in the north and west of Melbourne with a medical case which may have been able to be treated at an after hours general practice or pharmacy.

More than 37,000 of these people lived within Brimbank.

Care at an after hours clinic costs $93 on average, compared with $368 at an emergency department. This cost balloons to $1351 if the patient arrives by ambulance.

Network chief executive Adjunct Associate Professor Christopher Carter said unnecessary presentations at emergency departments put extra pressure on already busy hospitals.

“Attendance at an ED is thought to be the only option available for medical care outside of business hours,” Associate Professor Carter said.

“While we don’t want to discourage people from visiting emergency departments when they need to, many people with less serious conditions may have the option to be treated either at home, over the phone or at a local after hours facility.”