A week’s wait for medical appointments

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Margaret River residents will have to adjust to booking medical appointments a week in advance and can no longer be guaranteed a next-day visit due to the town’s growth.

With the health system under scrutiny across WA, the news from local clinics comes amid concerns about the flow-on effect of heaping pressure on Margaret River Hospital’s emergency department.

Margaret River Surgery owner and hospital GP Dr Cathy Milligan told the Times her practice was under the pump because of population growth as well as trying to administer 200-250 vaccines each week.

“If you’re coming for a vaccination, don’t expect a chat,” Dr Milligan said.

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“We’re fully busy. We haven’t got any extra staff. We have to squeeze (everyone) in.” Local doctors didn’t want to leave urgent cases untreated, she said, and the surgery offered emergency bookings which filled up daily before 9am.

“(But) if people really need to be seen, the only option is to go to the hospital,” Dr Milligan said. “We’re sorry.”

She endorsed recent comments by colleague Shaun O’Rourke, the Margaret River Medical Centre operator who said the lack of expansion plans for the hospital — along with staffing issues and a lack of space because of elderly patients waiting on aged-care beds — meant delays and increased numbers of residents being transferred to services in Busselton and Bunbury.

Lending his voice to the debate, WA Australian Medical Association president DR Andrew Miller said he was asking for reform across all the State’s emergency departments.

“People are just waiting too long (in EDs) because the Government is being stingy,” Dr Miller said.

“Increase the number of beds in the hospital, and increase the staff.”

Last month, the Times reported any future expansion for the campus required allocation of Treasury funding, dismissed by Health Minister Roger Cook’s office because the hospital was still meeting its emergency service targets.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River president Ian Earl said the plight of seniors had to be the first focus.

Opposition health spokeswoman Libby Mettam said she could not get any details about funding plans, whilenewly-elected Labor MLA for Warren-Blackwood Jane Kelsbie said she welcomed direct contact from hospital staff.

“As the local member for Warren-Blackwood, I’m keen to meet with staff so I can hear their needs firsthand and will be requesting a tour of the Margaret River Hospital,” she said.

“Enhancing the configuration of the emergency department at Margaret River Hospital has been identified as a priority,” Ms Kelsbie said.

However, still no further details of funding were available, and a WA Country Health Service spokeswoman was unable to detail specific upgrade plans.

WACHS said a full hospital redevelopment would be subject to relevant funding approvals through Treasury, noting projects are funded on a priority basis.

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