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After-hours bulk-billing service comes to your front door

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It's the late-night dilemma every parent with a sick child faces at some stage.

Do you drag them out in the cold to visit a late-night medical centre or emergency department or pay the cost of bringing a doctor to your home?  

That decision has become easier for Canberra parents like Kate Lynch, who can now receive bulk-billed home visits from a GP for her eight-month-old Jack rather than make the difficult trip to the emergency room.

The National Home Doctor Service, a network of bulk-billing visiting doctors, has been expanded into the ACT, to help sick Canberrans at home on weeknights, weekends and public holidays.

The service was launched on Monday by Chief Minister and Minister for Health Katy Gallagher, who said, “Anyone who’s had children knows that they tend to get sick at about 9 o’clock on a Friday night when everything else is shutting down”

Previously when Jack has been sick Mrs Lynch has used the Healthdirect service, a 24-hour number people can call to speak with a nurse. But sometimes, she said, it was difficult to describe accurately what the problem was and feel comfortable with advice over the phone.


“Being a new mum it’s hard to know sometimes with babies if it’s just something little or it’s going to be something more serious. To know that someone could come to my home to look after Jack and check him out is reassuring,” Mrs Lynch said.

According to National Home Doctor Service chief executive Ben Keneally, children under four were the biggest group catered to by the service, followed by people over the age of 85.

Residential manager at the Carey Gardens aged care facility Jill Dexter said the residents could be “quite displaced by going to the hospital”.

Mrs Dexter said the bulk-billed fee would also be very positive for her residents. The current after-hours doctor service in Canberra, CALMS, requires payment at the time of consultation.

“This way we don’t have to ring up family to provide payment. Residents don’t have that kind of money sitting in their drawers so it becomes quite an onerous task for the residents and their families,” Mrs Dexter said.

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