A Toronto mother who says her daughter's life was saved by GP Access After Hours is "mortified" the service is being cut and the federal government has not agreed to put in extra money.
Michelle Harvison said when her daughter was three, she took a turn for the worse after a day out shopping.
"She was happy and talking as a three-year-old does then I took her home and she just lost all energy, became very lethargic, pale and listless - not wanting to stand and bear her own weight," she said. "That happened in three hours, it was frightening. I've got three children, I'm an experienced mum and I have never seen a child go so downhill so rapidly."
She took her to GP Access, where the doctor prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection and said if she's not better the next day visit the doctor. So the pair went to their GP, where they realised the situation was more serious.
"He gave her an X-ray and told me she's got lobar pneumonia," she said. "He said 'this is what used to kill children years ago before antibiotics'. He said 'you were lucky - the antibiotics held it at bay, I'm going to give you a different sort, but they slowed it down'."
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Years later, Ms Harvison said GP Access also helped protect her daughter from a serious eye issue.
"The doctors thought she had an allergy in her eye, but it wasn't getting any better," she said. "One morning her eye started to swell up and you could see the redness going down onto her cheek.
Ms Harvison took her to GP Access where a doctor had a look then rang the hospital and admitted her straight away.
"It was periorbital cellulitis, which is an infection of the eyelid, pushing on the eye. So the infection can blind you if it's not seen to quick enough or it could go to the brain and cause brain damage or even death."
Because the doctor had written a form, Ms Harvison said they only had to wait five minutes in the hospital.
It's these experiences that make Ms Harvison "outraged" that GP Access is being cut back. The Mater clinic will close on Christmas Eve, while other clinics will have hours reduced. The federal government did not commit to providing any more money for the service in a response to Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon this week.
"That's ridiculous," Ms Harvison said. "It's proven to work. Where would my daughter be without that service? Where would all the other children be?
"Twice now, it has assisted my daughter, who is now 26, to have her eyes, to have her lungs, to have life because there's two times I might not have had her.
"It just saves so much time. It keeps the emergency for the emergency. People are now going to call the ambulance, taking ambulances off the street for people who could be in need of critical care. All it's doing is creating more wait times in an already overburdened public system.
"How is that saving money? It doesn't make economic sense, it doesn't make rational sense."
It's people like Ms Harvison that the service was set up for, according to one of its founders. Dr Arn Sprogis was CEO of the Hunter Division of General Practice, which is now Hunter Primary Care, and doing his own after hours service as a GP when he thought there should be an easier way for parents to treat sick kids out hours.
"The logic is why don't we try and do what we were doing in a semi-rural practice and integrate it into the public hospital system," he said. "So if it was more serious, right beside you is the emergency department."
The local area health service got on board, and the aim was to create a service from a patient's perspective, rather than a doctor's.
"We provided free transport," Dr Sprogis said. "We brought in appointments. If you had four kids, you didn't have to come and wait three hours hoping to get seen. But if things went bad, we could reallocate. It worked like a charm and needless to say people, particularly people with kids, really liked it."
So he said to now see the finger pointing between governments and the refusal to offer the money was extremely disappointing.
"The truth is the Commonwealth should be paying, but you don't disadvantage people from getting a service by having a bureaucratic argument between two sections of governments," he said. "If the health service can't resolve its funding issues with Commonwealth and the politicians can't resolve it people shouldn't suffer for that.
"The system doesn't work for bureaucrats, it works for people. That was the philosophy, that's how we designed it. So to watch it being put at threat of threat of destruction is extremely disappointing."
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