Doctor capacity and appointment availability

Like many medical centres in rural and regional areas around Australia, we face ongoing challenges in meeting patient demand – meaning difficulty for people to get appointments and longer wait times, especially for non-urgent issues. We have developed the following Q&A in response to the community questions we have received directly and also recent commentary on social media.

Is Ochre aware of the community frustration and responding to it?

Yes, we certainly are. Our team meets at least once a week to discuss options for improving our service and the efficiency with which we can use current resources to meet demand. We also assess what we have found to work well and what has been less effective or not sustainable.

What specifically is being done?

Our recent initiatives include:

  • Recognising that most of our inbound phone calls for ‘on the day’ appointments are for script repeats, we have implemented a system whereby one of our doctors focuses on script repeats daily in a dedicated ‘appointment block’ for patients who have attended in the clinic within the last six months. These are conducted via brief phone consultations.
  • Placing patients with non-urgent needs on a cancellation list, either for an in-person appointment or a telehealth appointment, and making sure the list is efficiently administered.
  • Encouraging non-urgent patients to wait until 10am before calling in order to allow our team to better handle and triage the influx of calls we get from 8.30am when we open. We have also been encouraging patients enquiring about their clinical results to call between noon and 1pm to allow our nursing team to more efficiently focus their time in this area.
  • Running dedicated clinics focused on specific chronic diseases to again better use the clinical resources in managing cases.
  • A return to Saturday consultations where possible – currently every second weekend.

We ask the community to support these and any other new initiatives and give us feedback on their experience.

Why did doctors leave the Scottsdale practice recently?

With the exception of Dr Ali, who left the practice to take a long overdue break from medicine, the doctors who left the practice recently were registrars (trainee doctors) who were with us on a ‘rotation’ for a set time period – usually between 12 weeks and 12 months. The good news is that we will have more registrars arriving in the coming weeks to fill the gaps. We believe we play an important role as a training facility and, if trainee doctors have a good experience with us, we are always hopeful they will return to practice in our clinic long term when they have qualified. Our doctor capacity will also be increased in coming weeks as we have secured extra locum coverage – so people will see more available appointments on the Ochre Health app and on the booking link above.

Why does the Bridport practice sometimes close for more days than advertised?

In the last few years there have been periods when we have not been able to open for all of our advertised days because we have had doctors on leave or unwell and we have not been able to obtain locum cover for them. This situation is infrequent and we plan as best we can to avoid it. We are committed to maintaining the Bridport practice long term and the need to close for a day or two does not imply we are considering closing it permanently. It is currently open as usual, on our advertised days of Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we are not aware of any need to miss days in the near future.

What is Ochre doing to bring in more doctors?

We are investing significant resources to attract doctors to town with an experienced recruitment and marketing team hard at work advertising roles across all available local and international channels and sponsoring, and participating in, most of the relevant GP conference and events.

I am angry, what can I do?

Venting your frustration on our team members is not acceptable. They are doing their best and the situation is not their fault. If you would like to take action, we would welcome any introductions to doctors, registrars, interns or medical students who may be interested in working in the local area – possibly with family or other connections, a passion for golf or mountain biking etc. We would also welcome you raising your concerns with your local state and federal MPs and generally communicating your support for our government lobbying efforts around investing in Medicare, incentivising doctors to work in rural locations and streamlining credentialling requirements for overseas doctors considering working in Australia. Finally, we would love help in ‘rolling out the red carpet’ when prospective doctors visit the area.

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