More than just writing a script
Family Doctor Week
Western Australia – Dr Simon Torvaldsen
Dr Simon Torvaldsen is Chair of the AMA WA Council of General Practice, and he is also one of the owners of Third Avenue Surgery in Mt Lawley, just a few kilometres north-east of Perth’s city centre.
In an area that overall has a somewhat middle-class flavour, his patient demographic is quite mixed.
“It’s mainly mortgage belt and professionals – I have quite a few doctor patients – but also a significant number of elderly, less wealthy patients who have lived in the area for many years, plus some tenants of cheap unit accommodation,” he said.
“We are privately billing, although we bulk bill most pensioners. Our standard appointment is 15 minutes and most doctors see four patients per hour or somewhat less, as we do not discourage longer appointments and have a focus on quality care and patient satisfaction.”
Third Avenue Surgery has 10 consulting rooms.
“The work is so varied. From parents worried about their small children with fevers, to depressed and anxious teenagers,” Dr Torvaldsen said.
“My oldest patient died recently aged 104. I managed the sudden and somewhat unexpected deterioration, counselled family, provided palliative care, arranged nursing support and she passed away peacefully at her low-care aged care facility. It avoided hospital admission, which would have been expensive, futile, and most likely a poor quality, undignified end to a long and worthwhile life.
“Also recently, I had to gently nag an ophthalmologist who came in with wax impacted in his ear, jammed in by his attempts to remove it using various eye surgery instruments. Fortunately, it was easily removed by me. We doctors are not good at self-care, and general practice is a specialty in its own right. He will get me to do it next time.
“It is certainly not all coughs, colds and minor illnesses. Although we see plenty of that and the real skill is in picking the more serious conditions from the minor illnesses, especially as they often present to us in the very early stages.
“So much of what we do in general practice is about ensuring good communication and good understanding. It is not enough to just write the script.
“The reward is in the long-term care and seeing people through all sorts of things, as well as seeing the results of our medical care and the difference we make to people’s lives.
“We sometimes forget the degree of trust they put in us. And for me, the sheer variety keeps the day interesting and the brain nimble.”