Waiting time of seven hours at Urgent Doctors explained

Dunedin Urgent Doctors has been swamped with patients, people reporting waits of as long as seven hours.

The Otago Daily Times was contacted yesterday by a woman concerned her grandson, who was running a very high temperature, had to wait seven hours to be seen.

"The staff at Urgent Doctors and one doctor on duty are amazing and treating everyone with respect, even though they are snowed under," she said.

"Unless we get attention for this problem, it isn’t going away."

The ODT is also aware of a patient who waited five hours to be seen this week.

Dunedin Urgent Doctors and Accident Centre chairman Phil White said the service apologised for the delays, which it was working hard to fix.

"Waits of five and seven hours are unusual even at this time, but we are also concerned at the waits people are normally having, which averages two to three hours.

"We regret the long waits people have had ... they are not satisfactory and unfortunately they have been rising over the past few weeks.

"It is something we are concerned about and we have reacted by putting on extra doctors in the evening and at weekends."

Dr White said he had had first-hand experience of the issue, working at the centre a fortnight ago.

"Our normal number of presentations in an afternoon session is between 12 and 15, and 35 people attended."

That number of patients meant doctors rostered on in the evening were having to deal with the backlog from the day, as well as those people who arrived at night.

"It doesn’t help that we have no way of predicting who is going to come through the door."

Winter was always a busy time for after hours due to seasonal ailments, but that demand had increased with the outbreak of RSV.

The service was trying to recruit more staff, but like most general practices it was faced with an ageing and retiring GP workforce and Covid-19 imposed barriers to hiring from overseas.

"We have just managed to recruit a nearly fulltime clinical director and hopefully that will help improve the situation,’’ Dr White said.

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