Doctor Doctor

There are many things that I love about the bush but medical services is not one of them.

There’s a “practice” at the local health clinic where you ring the surgery at 9am to try to secure one of a handful of available appointments. It’s like a race where the first one to have their call answered wins the prize of a possible appointment that day. I’ve tried Plan A a couple of times without success so today I’m going with Plan B – wait a couple of weeks for a tele-health appointment.

I should actually call it Plan C because originally, Plan B was to make a medical appointment for dates when we were due to go back to the coast. After all, eventually we’ll be living there again plus there’s a much wider selection of doctors.

So a tele-health phone call was booked with a new doctor on the coast. It seemed simple enough – I’d request full blood tests to be carried out in advance of the September face-to-face appointment that I’d also booked. The receptionist took my September booking but advised me to book the telephone consult online using Hotdoc – which I did…… will the doctor call me or will I call her?……….. “She’ll call you”.

I rang a few days later to ask if I could scan and email some medical reports seeing it was our first appointment and the receptionist was quite obliging – even checking back with me, that all pages had been included. Then, yesterday I texted ‘Yes’ to confirm “your Fri 28 Aug 10.30AM Telephone Consult”.

Plan B was going swimmingly!

Even this morning, there was no hint of a problem when after half an hour I still hadn’t received the promised phone call. After all, who has ever been admitted to a consult on time? Unperturbed, I waited, all the while watching the Hotdoc web page that confirmed I was “First in the queue”.

The first sneaky suspicion that Murphy might be hiding out somewhere was when the screen I was glued to suddenly stated that my appointment was over……… “Appointment attended”.

During Nigel’s last outback tenure (Enngonia is 97kms from the nearest doctor) I was desperately awaiting news of a cancer test. The surgeon had gone on holidays and the referring GP hadn’t requested an appointment even though it had been a couple of weeks. In the end I decided to ring to get the results and was told, “the doctor wants to see you”.

After driving almost 100 kms in a state of apprehension / terror I was sent in to the locum, who found my file, looked up the report and then casually announced that my results were negative. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to wanting to punch someone in the face! Surely medical good news can be conveyed without requiring the recipient to complete a 200km round trip.

A few months back, I received a letter from the Clinic in town, advising how important it was for me to have a bone density test and that they were procuring a mobile DEXA machine for a day and I really should book an appointment. When I rang to take advantage of this service I was told that far too many people (170 already!) were wanting the same service and there simply weren’t enough appointment times available.

I must add that I did ring to find out what had gone wrong with the phone consult. I was told that first appointments have to be in person. When I replied that there was nothing mentioned on Hotdoc to suggest that, I was informed that the doctor “did try to ring both phone numbers” (no record of any such calls on either phone) and suddenly the conversation was over – no apologies, just a suggestion to try my own doctor.

And this wasn’t even the bush. This was the mid north coast!

To be honest, I suspect that the doctor had no idea of any of this. I never got to speak to her…… just a person on the other end, then “Please hold” then a very long silence, then another person and, finally the suggestion to see my own doctor.


A couple of weeks later, the local tele-health call went well and I’ve now had full bloods taken and even obtained a DEXA referral. In hindsight, I was probably (read definitely) a bit harsh in my criticism of rural practitioners because, to be honest, outback NSW won hands down over regional NSW. So you might notice that I’ve retracted some of the previous complaints from this particular post (“Want some cheese with that whine?”) in an effort to be less whiny and more gracious.

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