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Opinion Piece

Are Ballarat’s Medical Centre’s Coping?

Yesterday I spent hours pondering this question.

It is not a subject that I think about often but I had ample time as I sat in a ‘walk-in’ clinic from 8.20am to after 11am, waiting my turn to be seen by a medical professional.

The reason for my visit was that I needed a doctor’s certificate to take to my workplace.

On Sunday night I felt the full brunt of a nasty cold.

I shivered so violently in the night, I was surprised that the bed wasn’t in the middle of the room in the morning.

The hot sweats came after that, interspersed with a nose that ran quicker than my bathroom tap (I literally slept with tissues up my nostrils), followed by a sore throat and sinus pain.

There was no way that I could go to my customer service job – for one I felt like dying, two I did not want to spread it to my workmates and customers.

I felt very average and phoned my usual doctor, not for medication, but to book an appointment so that I could get a doctor’s certificate.

No problem, they could get me in – on June 13! They suggested a ‘walk-in’ clinic.

So Wednesday morning I combed my hair, rugged up, took a good supply of tissues and off I went.

Prior to leaving home I had looked on the clinic’s website and it stated it was less busy than usual and when I walked in it didn’t look overly busy.

I sat and waited, prepared for around a half hour wait.  Other people walked in – old people, middle aged people, mum’s and dad’s with very small babies, toddlers and school aged children in their school uniforms.  Did you know that school children need a doctor’s certificate if they are away from school?

We sat and waited and waited.  People came after me and got seen before me – apparently you can make an appointment, or ask how long it would be before you would be seen and you could come back and your spot would be held.

As it is I find a doctor’s surgery confronting, it is the worst place to be because you are surrounded by sick people.

On this particular day there was constant coughing and sneezing and I wondered how many others were just there for a doctor’s certificate to give to their employer or school.

Surely we can come up with a better system than to have everyone lumped together and waiting?

I did not need or want a script for medication, I knew the symptoms would eventually pass with rest and paracetamol, so why did I, and many others, need to take up valuable time that could be spent on people who had other maladies and needed the attention of a doctor?

One thing that stood out was the cheerfulness of the front desk staff and the cooperation of the ‘patients’.

Apart from grumblings amongst ourselves that it was taking a ridiculously long time, we were a reasonable bunch – even the babies were quiet but there has to be a better system.

I am happy to pay to see my doctor but when it takes over a week for an appointment and they themselves suggest a bulk-billing clinic, then there is something seriously wrong in this town.