Doctor calls for help hotline to be scrapped
QUEENSLAND Health is considering offloading its $9.9 million 13Health service - which employs 63 people - to a national call centre.
Nambour GP Wayne Herdy says the entire service should be scrapped as it is a waste of money.
Dr Herdy, an Australian Medical Association Queensland committee member, said the telephone hotline introduced in 2006 has had the opposite of its desired effect.
"Research in Western Australia shows instead of reducing the number of people visiting emergency departments, the use of a service like 13Health has resulted in an increase," he said.
A Queensland Health spokeswoman confirmed there had been "a steady increase" in emergency department admissions.
"But 13Health could not be said to be a contributing factor in this," she said.
"13Health performance data shows 80% of callers seeking triage advice are recommended a non-emergency level of care.
"Results of the Emergency Department Patient Experience Survey conducted in 2013 showed only 2.6% of total referrals to emergency departments were from 13Health.''
The Commission of Audit has recommended the telephone support services from 13Health be transferred to Healthdirect Australia.
The spokeswoman said the government had made no decision on the recommendation. She said it was working on an analysis of options, including retaining in-house, outsourcing and joining the national health call centre.
Dr Herdy said Healthdirect was merely a replication of 13Health.
"There is no substitute for a face-to-face consultation," he said.
Dr Herdy said the service was attended by a nurse with some clinical experience who had to be "protocol driven".
"She must follow the protocol put in front of her and has no discretion to offer individualist advice," he said.
He would prefer to see the entire telephone triage system "completely scrapped" and the GP after hours service enhanced.
Healthdirect did not respond to the Daily's request for information yesterday.
A call to its 1800 number was deferred to the 13Health number.