Friday 8 October 2010

The Australian Health Service has devised interesting ways of trying to ease the burden on the nations Emergency Departments. One solution is to provide free telephonic medical advice to people that have non-emergency medical issues that would otherwise end up sitting in an emergency department waiting room with something that could easily what for a GP appointment in the morning.

This brilliant system named HealthDirect is a taxpayer funded six million dollar per annum telephone call centre where burnt-out nurses can google your medical questions on your behalf between checking their facebook.

This fantastic idea has actually increased the number of presentations to the emergency department and here is a lovely example of how……

While working in our local working class town ED, stitching up drunks and managing overdose patients, a lady came to triage with a splinter in her finger.

I really thought the triage nurse was joking with me but the “medical emergency” that required a trip to the local hospital at midnight was indeed a splinter in the finger.

At around 2am I was able to see this impaled appendage and it looked exactly as the nurse described: “a splinter in the finger”.

I thought there must be some trick or joke going on but this rather embarrassed and tired lady explained that she thought she would recoup some of her tax dollars and ring HealthDirect for a little telephonic advice. (She obviously had no friends or even google to turn to.) This government sanctioned initiative whose sole role is to unburden the Emergency Departments of this country instructed her to head straight to the nearest emergency department and get her splinter professionally removed. Fearing blood poisoning or sudden death, she obliged. As did I, and I professionally removed a tiny splinter from a healthy finger and thought, “ this one is for the blog”.