There is one place Tasmanians don't want to be and that is in hospital. Yet our focus too often is on the "hospital problem" rather than the "health problem".
Of course, we do need excellent hospital care, but we also need to educate people about how to look after themselves so that they have good health and early intervention in health problems before they face going to hospital.
From there, we also need strategies to ensure that when people do enter hospital, they do not make up the statistic who have an unplanned readmission once they have been discharged.
As a GP, we don't like seeing our patients in hospital if we can avoid it.
Instead, we aim for early intervention when we identify a health problem. We look at the causes and treat those.
We educate our patients, and sometimes their family or carers, on how to achieve better health outcomes, and if necessary, we plan strategies to deal with chronic health challenges.
It sounds simple, but this approach has its own set of challenges. Currently, we do not have enough GPs to treat those who are sick or concerned about their health.
Less than 20 per cent of medical students choose general practice as their medical speciality. If this is not addressed and medical students fail to choose this as their discipline, patients will have no other choice to attend an emergency department.
Adding to this, there are not enough access to walk-in clinics and not enough government support for preventative health measures with only $70 million invested in this area even though a third of the state budget is allocated to health.
Yet preventative health is such a simple proposition if people take responsibility for their own health.
If people do not get sick or develop chronic illnesses, then the pressure comes off the public hospital system.
It means fewer people would present at the Launceston General Hospital emergency department, which currently is the only place that offers 24-hour access to free care in Northern Tasmania.
"Emergency department" is a misnomer. Many of those people presenting are not in a medical emergency, they are in an access and affordability emergency.
It accepts all-comers, including those with health insurance who would prefer an alternative such as all-hours GP or a private hospital after-hours clinic.
A great example of what is possible already operates in Northern Tasmania with the Launceston Medical Centre providing semi-urgent walk-in clinics 365 days of the year.
It has helped more than 80,000 people stay healthy at home with only five per cent of those patients needing further treatment, often in the form of admission to the LGH.
There is a catch, unfortunately in that the clinic is only open for three hours a day.
If people can't wait for this window, or they cannot wait to get into their GP, the LGH emergency department is the only option available.
There is no government support for this operation even though it reduces the pressure on the government-funded emergency department.
It is not seen as an investment even though it can help deliver the laudable target of making Tasmania the healthiest state in the nation.
A model like this means that emergency departments remain a place for highly skilled life-saving emergencies like motor vehicle accidents and heart attacks, while other facilities share the load.
I highly commend Calvary Healthcare's proposal to build a co-located hospital next to the LGH in that it addresses some of the concerns we currently face in the health sector.
A co-located hospital, next to the LGH, along with the Launceston Medical Centre and other private clinics would do some much to alleviate our over-burdened and stressed public hospital system.
It would also allow the hospitals to work in consultation with the GP and forge a closer relationship based on a philosophy of preventative care and early intervention.
It would also relieve the frustration often felt by patients who need to repeat their story several times as their doctors have not talked.
There are many long-term benefits to doing things differently that will ensure Tasmanians have the comprehensive, quality and timely care they deserve.
We need to plan for our future and this starts with ensure that preventative health is front of mind.
- Jerome Muir Wilson is a GP and director at the Launceston Medical Centre.
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