My immune system is usually pretty resilient. I don’t get that many colds and when I do, I usually get over them pretty quickly. Famous last words they say. For the past three weeks I’ve been hit for six. Struck by the dreaded lurgy, with a cough that won’t quit. Don’t feel sorry for me, it seems every second person has been afflicted of late. My most worrying symptom developed in the past week, badly blocked ears. It got to the point where I could hardly hear anything. Not even if I was standing straight in front of someone. Concerned I might need some antibiotics for what was likely an ear infection, I did a ring-around late last week to try to get into a GP ASAP. I was promptly told the earliest I could see my regular GP would at the end of July, weeks away, while for other doctors in the practice it would be early to mid-August. When you can’t see your own GP, it doesn’t help that most of the GPs in town do not take on any new patients. In the end, after trying other clinics, I managed to book in somewhere in a week’s time. But it still didn’t solve my hearing loss, which was getting worse by the day. So on the weekend, for the first time ever, I took myself to the ED to see a doctor. I’ve heeded all those messages throughout the years that you shouldn’t present at the ED for any minor, non-emergency ailments, like a cold or an ear infection. But I had no other choice. My hearing was shot, and I’ve learnt I’m not a very good lip reader, so my ability to function was pretty much non-existent. I was surprised that I only had to wait half an hour in the ED before being seen by a doctor. I walked away with a script and didn’t have to pay anything. My easy time in the ED may have been a fluke, but it made me think no wonder so many people clog up our EDs for reasons they could easily go to their GP with — if they could get into their GP in a timely manner and if a quick GP consult didn’t set you back close to $100 pre-rebate. After talking about my experience, a colleague one-upped me, informing me they can’t get in to see their GP until September. I know we are in the middle of winter and it’s a shocking flu season, so it’s no surprise our GPs are inundated. It’s not just remote communities suffering from a lack of acceptable healthcare services. It’s the major regional centres and metropolitan Perth as well. Staffing shortages in healthcare is at crisis point. Let’s hope next month’s health summit is not just a pointless talkfest, but can actually come up with some real solutions backed by government. I may still be pretty much deaf as I wait for the antibiotics to kick in. But one thing rings loud and clear: There’s something inherently wrong with our system that needs urgent fixing when you can’t get in to see your GP for weeks or months a time, or when nurses are pulling double and triple shifts on the regular or when you live in a town of almost 5000 people like Carnarvon and can’t deliver your baby in your hometown and struggle to get your kids vaccinated.