Years ago I did a locum in a rural town. As the town’s only doctor went on holiday for a week, I was supposed to look after the hospital and the adjacent GP practice.
On the first day, just as I was applying a plaster cast to a farmer’s broken hand, a secretary came in to the emergency department and told me I was not allowed to work.
“What do you mean?” I asked surprised.
“Your Medicare provider number hasn’t come through yet,” she said.
So I spent most of the week reading novels and sight-seeing the lovely area.
Apparently it was busy in the hospital. The amazing nurses were holding the fort. They had to call the poor doctor on his holiday address to discuss patients and get phone orders.
The provider number came through on the afternoon of the last day.
I know many doctors across the country have had similar experiences. Why doctors have to apply for a new provider number every time they move to a different place, is beyond me.
We are drowning our health care professionals (and each other) in a flood of often poorly thought out regulations.
The recent AHPRA advertising guidelines fiasco is one example.
The national authority script hotline is another: every time a patient’s script runs out, a doctor has to ring the government to get approval for a new script – and is usually put on hold. If you want to know how wasteful this system is, watch the video at the end of this post. I made the clip a year ago and the audio is a real-time recording of what happened when I made a call. Nothing has changed since.
What you can do
The Australian Medical Association is now calling for action (see below). Please send the department and the minister an email, even if you’re not a doctor. The government needs to hear the consumer voice. Your help to cut red tape in healthcare is much appreciated.
PBS Authority system (Source: AMA)
To keep the pressure on DHS to properly resource the phone line service, please report delays via email to:
You can make sure the Minister for Health and the Minister for Human Services have a clear picture of the impact on doctors by copying them into your email.