MORE than half the patients who went to the accident and emergency department at Orange hospital last year were seeking treatment for non-urgent and minor ailments that could have been treated by a general practitioner.
With the pressure on the Western Local Health District (WLHD) to rein in health costs, chief executive officer Scott McLachlan said the hospital was going to look closely at ways to relieve pressure on the accident and emergency department staff after 65 per cent of the 27,193 patients fell into the triage 4 (potentially serious) or 5 (less serious) categories.
Those categories include patients who have had symptoms for at least a week, with other conditions including headaches, earaches, toothaches, and rashes.
Mr McLachlan said he would not rule out co-locating a general practitioner clinic within the hospital to deal with the large number of patients who present with non-urgent ailments.
“That idea did come up about six months ago and we parked it,” Mr McLachlan said.
“But in the new year it may be time to bring it out again.
“Co-locating GPs at the hospital could be on the cards.”
The WLHD has increased its budget by $25 million this year to help deal with rising costs associated with health delivery across the region, working with a total budget of $270 million.
Mr McLachlan said already this year savings of $16 million had been found by appointing more specialists and reducing the number of fly-in fly-out staff to centres in the region.
Australian Medical Association NSW branch president Brian Owler told the Central Western Daily he wasn’t sure setting up a GP clinic at the hospital would be a panacea for the large number of patients who present at Orange’s emergency department.
“There have been some mixed results with successes and failures with this type of model,” he said.
Associate professor Owler said in rural areas such as Orange and Cabonne, where there is no access to late-night pharmacies and no 24-hour medical clinics, people turn to emergency departments for help.
In the last financial year 27,193 patients went through the emergency department at Orange hospital with 17, 682 patients categorised in the non-urgent band of triage 4 and 5.
General practitioners contacted by the CWD yesterday were unavailable for comment.