All of the community's general practitioners participate in a co-operative after hours on-call service on a roster basis. This means that medical attention is always available for emergencies and unexpected severe illness, both for hospital in-patients and all other members of the local community. Visitors to the community are also catered for.

Please be aware that this after hours emergency care is provided by private (non-salaried) general practitioners who will charge fees for their services even though they are provided within the hospital!

The doctors are not employed by the hospital but provide their services to the hospital and the community in a mutually supportive role. In addition it is entirely up to the doctor how much is the fee and whether or not patients are bulk-billed or sent an account.

If you have an serious health problem which you feel needs to be seen urgently when this clinic is closed, please ring the After Hours GP Helpline on 1800 022 222. Your situation will be assessed by an experienced triage nurse who will give you advice about the safest way to deal with your problems. You may be asked to attend the nearest hospital to be seen by an on-call GP and if this is the case please ring Castlemaine Health on 54711470. An experienced triage nurse will ask for details of the problem and will assess the urgency with which the problem should be dealt with.

Relatively minor problems which can wait until the patient's usual doctor is next available in his or her clinic will NOT be dealt with after hours. Instead the nurse may either provide advice on how to deal with the matter.

For non-urgent problems which cannot wait until normal surgery hours it is likely that you will be notified of a time when the on-call GP will be in attendance at the Emergency Department of Castlemaine Health if he or she is not actually there at the very time you have called. You will then be asked to come to the hospital at that pre-arranged time and there may already be other patients waiting to see the on-call GP before you arrive.

Please be aware that there are no Xray or Pathology services available in Castlemaine after hours and that it is possible that you may be advised by the on-call doctor to attend the Emergency Department of the Bendigo Hospital where such services are often available after usual working hours!

Please be patient if you have to wait to see the on-call doctor as he or she is usually the only doctor providing medical services for a regional population of about 19,000 patients. The waiting time is much less than the usual waiting times at Bendigo hospital's emergency department.

Because the on-call GP must be available to attend emergencies very promptly, it is unlikely that house calls will be performed by the on-call doctor. If a patient has a serious and urgent problem but cannot get to Castlemaine Health under their own steam or with the assistance of family or friends it is likely that an ambulance will be needed to bring the patient to the hospital. And it is wise to note that ambulance transfers of even just a few kilometres can be very expensive unless you are a paid up member of the Ambulance service - hint, hint!