New research highlights that a higher number of GP-type patients are presenting at emergency departments in hospitals in rural North-West Tasmania due to lack of availability of general practice care.
Research conducted by the University of Tasmania’s Rural Clinical School’s (RCS) Dr Penny Allen and the Tasmanian Health Organisation-North West’s Dr Marielle Ruigrok shows that there were 152,481 ED presentations during the three-year period from the start of 2011 to the end of 2013. Of these, 35% might have been suitable for GP management.
Lead researcher Dr Penny Allen says with fewer GPs in the North-West, residents were likely to appropriately self-refer to EDs to access care.
“Increasing the supply of GPs in rural areas remains the cornerstone of reducing general practice-type presentations,” the researchers say.
“The GP to patient ratio in North-West Tasmania demonstrates the need to consider a different approach to healthcare funding and planning to those models which support city healthcare services.”
The researchers also said that other models of providing care, which align with the communities’ needs in less expensive settings than EDs require exploration.
The research provided comparison to similar work of looking at EDs in Perth, Western Australia, where GP-type patients are two to three times higher in the North West compared to the metropolitan study where presentations only contribute 7–8% of the department’s total treatment time, and therefore do not cause overcrowding.