If I was to pick one of the best services available to families in Australia it would have to be 13SICK, National Home Doctor Service.
On quite a number of occasions our family has had to call 13SICK and within an hour or so had a fantastic bulk billed doctor show up to our house (or holidays apartment which has happened on 2 occasions) to treat our sick kids. One of my pet hates is going to the Emergency Department (ED) at our local hospital with my kids because it is so stressful. I understand sometimes this is unavoidable because they need emergency medical attention but other times our child really needs to see a doctor. It is not ED urgent however we can’t wait. In those moments, 13SICK is the best thing ever.
13SICK bulk bills all patients with a Medicare card. 13SICK treats patients who don’t have a life threatening illness, but need to see a doctor urgently. Having a doctor come to your home to treat your sick child saves you having to wake your other children to go to the ED and sit there for who knows how long until someone can see you (in between tending to actual emergencies like heart attacks and severed limbs!)
The other thing I am aware of is how much it costs the healthcare system for us to show up at the ED. Did you know that if you were to show up to an ED via an Ambulance the minimum cost of that is $1,351? If you were to walk in the door of an ED the minimum cost of that is $368 per patient. Thank God we live in a country that provides bulk billed services like 13SICK as it saves the community money and provides a valuable service. In 2012-13 the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) estimated that 2.12 million presentations to EDs were avoidable with 63% happening after hours. More often than not in the past when services like 13SICK were not available people had no other option than heading to the ED to get help. I will be the first to admit that before I knew about 13SICK I had taken my kids to the ED knowing it wasn’t a serious emergency but we didn’t have any other options out of hours when the local GP is closed.
Did you know that if a quarter of 2.12 million presentations to the ED considered avoidable were diverted to either extended and ‘after hours only’ clinics or home doctor services like 13SICK, the net benefit to the health system would be an additional $81.8 million to $93.5 million per year nationally. IS THAT INSANE OR WHAT!
This is why it completely does my head in that the service is under threat. Why is it under threat? Well the government is currently reviewing the Medicare Benefit Schedule to try and find cost savings wherever it can. Home visits have come under attack because more people are starting to use the service and therefore on the surface it appears to be an area of cost growth which must be a bad thing? Wrong! Yes, more people are using the service because more people have access to the service including residents of rural and reginal towns that had no other option than the local ED department after-hours. They now have an alternative, and one that is far most cost effective at that.
As a country we can not afford to lose services like 13SICK and as a mother I can not afford to lose them either.
13SICK, National Home Doctor Service has joined forces with other home doctor services and they need your help to Protect Home Visits. There are small but vocal groups lobbying the Government to try restrict home visits. The restrictions that want to impose include:
- cutting the Medicare rebate for home visits (so there is no incentive for Doctors to do this work)
- reducing the number of home visiting doctors (which will mean wait-times would skyrocket) and;
- restricting and preventing providers promoting their services (no point in having a great service for the community if no one knows about it, now is there?).
At the end of the day the people this will impact the most are working families, older Australians, people with disabilities and their carers – those who rely on a home doctor the most to care for them when their GP is closed.
The risk is real and they urgently need your help to stop it. You can sign up to the campaign now via this link.
I am asking you on behalf of the people in this country who need help the most to help save this essential Medicare service. Without the after-hours home doctor service, we will be forced to use emergency departments, which are already under pressure, or take the risk of not seeking care when the GP is closed. Home visits already save taxpayers around $180 million per year by easing the pressure on emergency departments.
You can also keep up-to-date on the campaign to protect this essential Medicare service by liking them on Facebook. Together, we can all help protect home visits.