Doctor, doctor give me the news – and please sign my mum out of hospital

Susanna Freymark

Personal stories keep coming in about elderly people stuck in hospital beds because they can’t get signed out to go into a nursing home.

A major issue for people is finding a GP to sign their relative out of hospital. Other people are struggling to find a nursing home with available places.

Northern NSW Local Health District acting chief executive Katharine Duffy said when an older person in hospital was identified as requiring a transfer to an aged care or respite facility, a comprehensive Aged Care Assessment was undertaken.

This is done when an older person no longer requires hospital care.

“As part of the admission process to a facility patients require a nominated GP who is responsible for prescribing medication and overseeing primary care treatment and visiting the older person in the facility when medically required,” Ms Duffy said.

The problem is finding a GP who will do this. In Casino, most doctors are not taking on new patients, let alone elderly ones who require the doctor to visit an aged care facility.

Ms Duffy said a range of factors were currently impacting the availability of places in aged care facilities including in Casino.

“These include the loss of available aged care places in facilities affected by floods, the loss of flood-affected housing impacting older people, resulting in increased need for earlier admissions to a facilities and impacts from covid furloughing in the health and aged care sectors generally,” she said.

This is an added headache but doesn’t address the doctor shortage and a sign-out system for elderly people that clearly isn’t working.

Guardian Australia reported today, Saturday, July 16 that there were 4477 people in hospital with covid across Australia.

This impacts hospital staff and the availability of hospital beds. If there is a backlog of elderly patients waiting to leave, this only adds to the pressure on the hospital system.

We have asked the Minister for Women, Regional Health and Mental Health Bronnie Taylor for comment and Healthy North Coast about doctor availability in our region and what can be done about this sign out system. We have not had a response yet.

Residential aged care facilities and the services they provide are the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.

We will be contacting the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler about this issue.

GP shortage leaves elderly stuck in hospital waiting to be signed out
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