Doctors overwhelmed with patient consultations. | Javier Coll


The new Primary Care format, which involves initial screening of patients over the phone to avoid crowds in waiting rooms has left Family Doctors at Balearic Health Centres overwhelmed.

Doctors are now dealing with up to 90% of patient consultations via telephone but that means they're making an average of 300-400 calls a day.

"There is saturation of calls and many times the patients don't pick up, the number is wrong or they tell you to call back later," says Dr Vicente Reyes.

Doctors also point out that a lot of patients are ignoring the new system for consultations and just turning up at Health Centres.

"When I arrived this morning, the waiting room was full of people, which is exactly what we need to avoid. Those who need a face-to-face consultation are either given an appointment by a nurse or we tell them when to come,” Dr. José Manuel Valverde explains, “The problem is many patients just come to the Emergency Centres without calling first, or they go to Hospital Emergencies, which should be avoided.”

Not only has the regular work format changed for Medical Staff, they are also having to cope with shortages because staff are on holiday.

“We manage, but whereas we used to see between 30 and 35 people a day, now there are many more. Every day there are about 300 patients and only six doctors.

“At Can Pastilla Health Centre each Professional deals with his own agenda, then the patients of Doctors who have not been replaced, plus those who are late," says Dr Vicente Reyes. "We have had to set a daily limit because it is a bottomless pit and on top of that we have the difficulty of doing consultations without seeing the patient and communication can be difficult. There are some things that can be solved on the telephone and that’s fantastic, but there are others that cannot and it has a tremendous cost."

Dr Javier Arranz, Spokesperson for the Regional Committee of Infectious Diseases, who is also a Family Doctor acknowledged the difficulties.

"We have not recovered 100% of Primary Care because it is now summer and people need to go on vacation," he explains. "It is true that Primary Care Professionals are saturated with telephone calls and it is difficult because doctors are always concerned that the quality is the same.”

The situation was more complicated last week when wearing a face mask on public roads became compulsory, because Doctors were inundated with calls from patients asking for exemption for medical reasons.

Health Minister, Patricia Gómez, explained that the exceptions are minimal and she recommended that those who do not have to wear a mask do not leave the house.