Dr Andrew Binns

Dr Andrew Binns looks at the chequered history of after hours home visits by Australian GPs, and the current scheme’s uncertain future.

I arrived in this region nearly four decades ago, setting up my own solo practice in April 1979 and some years later gained an associate to share the workload. A major factor in encouraging more cooperation with colleagues was the need to provide after-hours care for our patients.

The challenge was to balance this commitment with family life, including factoring in holidays,  plus the demands and expenses that come with running a practice to the level expected by patients and the various regulatory bodies.

As the years passed it became harder and we established a roster for sharing after-hours calls. This included obstetrics cover for some relevantly trained practitioners, including myself. However, even a three-practice amalgamation did not solve the burden of after-hours care provision, so we began to cooperate with other neighbouring practices to further share and manage the workload.

North Coast Primary Health Network (NCPHN) has launched an Expressions of Interest process to attract individuals with relevant expertise and experience to join a Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol Clinical Expert Panel.

The panel will provide clinical advice and input on the design and monitoring of mental health and drug & alcohol treatment services commissioned by the NCPHN.

After many years of complaints from GPs about the problems associated with paper based reporting, the North Coast BreastScreen Service is to trial an electronic system.

According to Nick Astone, Patient Clinical Information Manager for BreastScreen NSW North Coast, the next version of their information system will contain a GP electronic messaging facility.

Faster processing of abnormal and equivocal reports will reduce both the psychological and physical morbidity of breast screening and will be welcomed by patients and GPs alike.

Federal Assistant Minister for Health, the Hon Dr David Gillespie

Federal parliament has passed legislation for the appointment of a new National Rural Health Commissioner who will act as a “champion for rural health and the doctors, nurses and allied health workers who care for those living in these communities,” according to Port Macquarie MP and Assistant Minister for Health, Dr David Gillespie.

“Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner will be an independent and high-profile advocate for regional, rural and remote health,” Dr Gillespie said, calling it an “important milestone that delivers on the Federal Coalition’s election commitment to address shortfalls in medical and health professionals in rural, regional and remote areas.”

The Commissioner will also consider the nursing, dental health, Indigenous health, mental health, midwifery and allied health needs in regional, rural and remote Australia, he added.

Easter Island photo by Ruth Tinker

Dr Ruth Tinker explores Easter Island’s ‘monumental history’

One of the great things about travelling is learning about other peoples and places.  I recently visited one of the most fascinating of places - Easter Island. History argues about when the Rapa Nui arrived on the remote Pacific island. Legend says that chief Hotu Matu’a led his extended family there in a few canoes between 200 and 300 AD.

 Radiocarbon dating suggests 700 AD as a better date, while some scientists believe it could be as late as 1200 AD.
The island, which is a triangle roughly 23 km by 11km, is extremely isolated even today.  It is five hours flying time from Chile, and almost as far from Tahiti.  The nearest island community is Pitcairn Island, a town of 50 souls, which is 2000 km away.


The people flourished, farming and using large log canoes to fish off shore. The population probably peaked at around 15,000. The people brought bananas, taro and chickens with them but also, unfortunately, rats.