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After hours over Christmas

After hours over Christmas
December 21, 2001

During the holiday season, the rate of accidents due to car crashes, and recreational accidents such as spinal injuries from water sports rapidly increase. However emergency and medical services can be scarce at this time of year. Jacqueline Head takes a look at what your options are if you need medical treatment this summer.

After hours times over public holidays has caused much controversy in recent years. Especially in rural and remote areas where medical services can be scarce, after hours clinics have been lobbied for over many years.

While Government funds have not made an incredible difference to all medical practices around Australia, many clinics are open on public holidays, but with less staff, and many charge 'emergency' rates.

Most corporate clinics stay open over Christmas an New Years, although health giant Mayne Nickless closes many of its Sydney branches on Christmas Day. Hours also change on public holidays, with Mayne clinics opening from 8am to 6pm instead of until 7pm, and only casual doctors work, instead of the regulars.

Your local medical clinic can vary a lot with times and charges. Most local services run half-day practices at emergency rates, while some completely close for a couple of days when the regular doctors take annual leave. Most also run at a much smaller capacity, with one or two doctors, and an extra doctor on call in case the waiting list becomes too full.

Other practices, such as semi-corporates, are often open all day on public holidays but with slightly shorter hours, and charge an emergency fee ($40 for non-pensioners and $30 for pensioners, with a $25 Medicare rebate).

Many services will not bulk bill and will expect payment on the day.

According to Dr. David Taylor, Christmas Day morning is usually quiet for most medical practices, while after Boxing Day the number of patients builds back up again. This is often because people have been out celebrating for three days, or haven't seen their doctor during a period when they probably should have.

Many people also suffer accidents during this time due to road travel, and injuries suffered from trying out new presents such as boats, and other watercraft.

If you find yourself in need of medical treatment these holidays and your local clinic is closed, don't panic, because there are other options available.

If your local practice is closed, the other option for receiving medical treatment is your local hospital. Treatment at a public hospital is free, while obviously prices differ for private hospitals. However waiting lists can be extremely long, and you may find you need to travel farther to an all-day clinic and pay the extra fee.

Another option is visiting an emergency clinic at a private hospital. These are open on public holidays usually from 1pm to 11pm, and 7am to 11pm every other day. They generally charge around the $40 to $50 mark, which is likely to be an upfront fee if going on a public holiday. Emergency units also have 24-hour services, but these are often used for more severe injuries. They also charge a much heftier fee, including a $120 upfront fee for which you cannot receive a rebate for, and then a charge to see the GP, for which you can get a rebate from Medicare.

The benefit of these clinics is that the waiting time is a lot less, and their hours are usually longer.

People in remote and rural areas may find medical clinics and hospitals harder to find than people in metropolitan areas, but if injuries are severe enough, Care Flight operates around the clock, and hospitals are generally open.

So before the Christmas season gets in to full gear make sure you check out your local medical clinic for opening and closing times. And above all make sure you have a safe Christmas and New Years!

By Jacqueline Head

Reprinted with permission from Editforce

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