NSM Review: National Home Doctor Service, 13 SICK

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We’ve all been there: it’s after hours and your little one is lethargic, crying and has just spiked a fever. Your GP is closed until the morning and you think you can wait it out, but the symptoms just keep getting worse.

In years past you would have had to rug up your child and head to the Emergency Department where you’d likely be waiting for hours, along with other sick patients, thinking to yourself, ‘if my child wasn’t really sick before he will be by the time we get out of here!’

Now you have another option; you can call the National Home Doctor Service on 13 SICK (13 74 25) and one of the 150 doctors this service has available across Sydney, will come to your house, prescribe medication, if necessary, and save you that undesirable trip to the hospital. And this service is bulk billed!

Recently, I was able to test out this service and I am so pleased I was able to call the National Home Doctor Service, rather than make my way to the hospital.

It was 2pm on a Sunday and my toddler had been out of sorts all day, refusing to take his naps and wanting me to cuddle him to sleep. Then he started running a fever and was getting more and more unsettled. My GP was closed and I didn’t want to head to the hospital but, at the same time, I didn’t think it could wait until the next morning.

The National Home Doctor Service is my GPs after-hour’s service provider, so I took a deep breath and rang 13SICK. I spoke to the operator who made an appointment for me, took my Medicare number and other contact details and let me know the doctor for my area started at 6pm. He would call after that time to let me know what time my appointment would be.

The doctor then called and told me he’d be at my place at 8pm. On average, 80 per cent of patients are seen within two to three hours (although, the wait can be longer during peak flu season).

The doctor arrived on time, checked out my son and let me know he had tonsillitis. He gave me a prescription to fill in the morning and told me to keep up the fluids and Panadol.

I was so relieved to know what was going on with my toddler and to know that I didn’t need to go to hospital and could start his antibiotics first thing in the morning. The whole process from start to finish was simple and made me feel at ease – I wouldn’t hesitate to call the service again if a similar situation arose.

According to a spokesperson from the National Home Doctor Service, very few patients the doctors see actually need to be sent to hospital. If people call with an emergency, the operator will triage and redirect them to a hospital. There are also times when a situation is more serious than first thought, for example when a sore tummy is actually appendicitis. On these occasions the doctors will refer patients to hospital and wait with the family for the ambulance to arrive.

The doctors also carry complimentary starter packs for many commonly prescribed medications which means that treatment can often start straightaway without the need to go out in search of a chemist.

During colder times of the year, the service assists about 500 patients across Sydney each night with the doctors treating a range of illnesses including gastro, fever, croup, middle ear infections, chest infections and injuries from winter sports.

When to call…

The National Home Doctor Service takes bookings from 4pm weekdays, 10am Saturdays, and all day Sundays and public holidays. The doctors are on the road from 6pm weekdays and from 12 noon Saturday through to 8am Monday morning and all day public holidays. In essence, the service is available when your regular GP is closed.

It’s also important to note that this service is not only available for babies, but all members of the family – from newborns to grandparents!

If your situation is an emergency, you should go to hospital or call an ambulance. However, if you are only considering hospital because ‘nothing else is open’, then save yourself a trip to the hospital and call 13 SICK.

For more information, visit the National Home Doctor Service.

Also, take a look at a Channel 9 News report on this great service and how it has helped another NSW family…

channel-9-video-link

NHDS

We’d like to know if you have taken advantage of the National Home Doctor Service and how you found the experience. Let us know in the comments section below…

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