A national shortage of aged care doctors has left more than
half of nursing homes with no choice but to send residents to hospital
emergency departments, Catholic Health Australia (CHA) found in a national
survey released today.
The CHA Survey of Access to General Practice (GP)
Services in Residential Aged Care
found 57 per cent of aged care home
respondents had on occasion transferred residents to emergency departments
(EDs) because of a doctor shortage. Eighteen per cent reported having to do so
'fairly frequently' or 'regularly'.
"The national GP shortage means some older Australians are
missing out on seeing a doctor in their home, and instead have to be admitted
to hospital," CHA CEO Martin Laverty said.
"It's not the fault of those hard working doctors who do
visit aged care homes. It's the consequence of not planning years ago for
medical shortages as the nation's population ages.
"There are not enough doctors to meet the needs of older
Australians who live in residential aged care. Alarmingly, many of the
committed doctors who do work in aged care are themselves approaching
retirement - which will soon make the shortfall worse."
The CHA network cares for one in every 10 Australians in
both hospitals and residential aged care. The survey, carried out in April,
reports interaction between aged care homes and general practice to identify
doctor service gaps.
"Just under 90 per cent of the aged care homes surveyed
reported serious concerns about their interaction with GPs, ranging from poor
access to communication," Mr Laverty said.
"Difficulties in organising timely visits because of GPs
having full case loads was the most frequently raised concern. The survey
suggests there are not enough doctors to care for the ageing, and those who do
After-hours access to doctors was also a major concern. Many
residents were unable to continue seeing their existing GPs after moving into
residential aged care.
"Aged care homes and doctors need to put solutions to
Government as part of the ongoing health reform process to ensure more doctors
are encouraged to take up roles in caring for aged care residents," Mr Laverty