Bendigo aged care residents struggle to find GPs

GP shortage hampers Bendigo aged care residents search for doctors

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Aged care residents are struggling to find regular GP care. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK

Aged care residents are struggling to find regular GP care. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK

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Residents are going without regular care because of the region's doctor shortage.

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Bendigo aged care residents are going without regular general practitioner visits as families struggle to find doctors.

Bendigo Health, which operates five aged care facilities in the region, said there was a limited number of GPs who were available to residents.

"This reflects the critical shortage of GPs across Bendigo," a spokesperson said.

Bruce Maclaren said he had been unable to find a GP for his father - who is a resident at Bendigo Health's Stella Anderson Aged Care facility - since his doctor left without notice last month.

Mr Maclaren said his father had kidney problems and severe ulcers on his legs. His father was in hospital just before Christmas because of a low blood count level.

Mr Maclaren said while Stella Anderson had helped in his search for a doctor, he was concerned his father's condition would deteriorate without regular GP care.

"I just hope I can find a doctor as soon as possible, not only for him, but for people in a similar position," Mr Maclaren said.

Becky Gray's father is also a resident at Stella Anderson and has been without a GP for several weeks.

Miss Gray said she had called every doctor in town, but was unable to find one with capacity to add him to their books, or one who did aged care home visits.

Miss Gray said the situation made her uneasy and she worried about potential health conditions that had not been picked up on, as her father had not seen a doctor in two months.

The Bendigo Health spokesperson said the centre was working with families.

"In residential care, it is a requirement for residents to be able to have a choice of GP," the spokesperson said.

"This means that a number of GPs visit different residents in aged care facilities, such as the Stella Anderson Nursing Home.

"Sometimes the GP who used to see the resident prior to admission will continue providing care.

"Bendigo Health does try to assist residents and families to find GPs although we face the same challenges they do."

Bendigo Health was working with the Murray Primary Health Network and a number of GP practices to address the issue, the spokesperson said.

Murray PHN executive regional director Janice Radrekusa said the GP shortage extended past aged care.

"We're getting more concerns coming to us from GPs, aged care facilities, and health services," she said.

"When you are a GP supporting an aged care facility, you're pretty much on call 24/7. That is not feasible or fair for any person.

"It's around changing the expectations and putting in systems and processes to make it better."

Ms Radrekusa said interim reports from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety highlighted the difficulties GPs faced in aged care facilities.

"We are getting frailer and more complex residents who have greater needs," she said. "More visits are required, but there are also greater regulations.

"It's a complex issue so the solution has to be complex."

Ms Radrekusa said Murray PHN would continue to work with the relevant people to find an appropriate fix.

"We have had two aged care forums with stakeholders to work towards a solution," she said.

"We have a draft model in place to help develop a solution. It won't be a quick solution and it will have to be directed, in part, by the aged care royal commission findings."

The royal commission will release its final report in November.

The story Bendigo aged care residents struggle to find GPs first appeared on Bendigo Advertiser.

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