Wait times of up to two weeks to snare a GP appointment in Karratha are causing a rise in the number of people turning up to the local hospital emergency department.
Currently there are only two GP clinics in the area, with a total of six doctors on hand to serve the more than 20,000 people who live in the likes of Karratha, Wickham, Dampier and Point Samson.
On Friday, the earliest one could book in to Karratha Medical Centre was in seven days, while at Sonic HealthPlus, the wait was at least 11.
Rural Health West northern regional advisor Chris Pickett said it had become apparent over the last couple of months that there was a lot more pressure on GPs.
“The impact of the flu season had an effect as there was a greater demand for vaccinations,” he said.
“But it’s just the general increase in demand up here.
“The workforce is starting to pick up and there’s been movement of families into the region.”
The average number of presentations at the Karratha Health Cam-pus emergency department from January to July was 1750, but in August, that number jumped to 2187.
A WA Country Health Service spokeswoman said emergency department presentations had been increasing since July, something which isn’t uncommon throughout the cooler months and as flu season sets in.
Instant Consult managing director Bianca Brown said over the last two months, the Pilbara region had contributed to just over 15 per cent of the online GP service’s patient base, which was significant given the relatively small size of the population in comparison.
“Long wait times at GPs definitely do drive patients onto online services such as Instant Consult, which is something we have been hearing from the patients and pharmacies in Karratha,” she said.
Mr Pickett said RHW was concerned about the impact long wait times had on people’s health.
“If people really believe there is a need to see a GP, once we start looking at two weeks, that’s just too long,” he said.
“It depends on the circumstances, but there isn’t a reasonable wait time.
“If it’s urgent, people should be able to see a doctor on the same day.”
RHW is trying to recruit five GP’s in the Karratha area.