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Southern DHB General Medicine - Southland

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Description

Welcome to Southland Hospital General Medicine

What is General Medicine?
General Medicine is the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of diseases affecting the internal organs of the body in adults.

Specialists in this field are called specialist general physicians. They are doctors who have trained in multiple specialties including diseases of the heart, lungs, brain and other organs. Often people have more than one part of the body involved in an illness or the exact cause of symptoms is not clear. The General Physician is an expert in diagnosing what is wrong and managing illnesses that are complex.

What is the difference between a Physician and a Specialist?
All Physicians are Specialists, yet not all Specialists are Physicians, for example, a Surgeon is a specialist in surgery that has trained with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

You may hear a Physician called a Specialist, a Specialist Physician or Consultant Physician.

What is the difference between a Physician and a General Practitioner (GP)?
Physicians complete at least six years of additional training in a medical specialisation after their basic medical degree and internship.

A GP may also undertake additional medical training, but does so through the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners or the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

In some countries (United States), the term Physician is interchangeable with medical practitioner. This is not the case in Australia and New Zealand.

When does a patient see a Physician?
General Practitioners refer patients to a Physician for expert medical advice. Physicians also treat patients in hospital settings.

Our General Medical Team
The Southland Hospital General Medicine team consists of 7 specialist general physicians who are supported by a team of registrars (doctors training to be a specialist) and a team of house officers (a qualified doctor but junior to the registrar). Southland hospital is also a teaching facility, affiliated to the University of Otago and its Dunedin School of Medicine. Sometimes as part of this commitment to teaching, you will find a trainee intern (medical student yet to pass their final exam) working alongside our physicians while they gain valuable practical experience.

Consultants

Referral Expectations

Hospital Admissions and the General Medical Team

If you suddenly become unwell and need to be admitted to hospital with a medical rather than a surgical problem, you will most likely be seen by the general medical team. If your GP (General Practitioner) thinks you need to be admitted to hospital they will contact a doctor on the medical team to request admission.  There is always a doctor from general medicine on call 24 hours per day.
 
Your arrival at hospital will be expected but often there will be delays in seeing a doctor.  Some examinations and tests will be undertaken by nurses in the admitting department and these help to prioritise how urgently you need to be seen. If blood tests are taken at this time, an IV (intravenous) line may be inserted and left in your arm.  This is a small plastic sheath with a needle that sits in a vein.  It allows rapid and pain-free access for repeated blood tests and for medication or fluids to be given.
Other tests you may have include a urine test and an ECG (electrocardiogram) to check your heart.
 

Your First Assessment
The doctor who assesses you will take a detailed history of your symptoms and ask about previous illnesses and what medications you are on.  Part of history-taking includes asking questions about what you do for a living, who you live with or what support you have. You will also be asked about smoking, alcohol etc. There will be other questions about your health designed to add helpful information to diagnose what is causing your symptoms. The doctor will then examine you. They will explain to you as they go the reason for the examination and then what tests or treatments are coming. You and your family can ask questions at any time during this assessment.

 
What Happens Next?
You will be admitted to hospital if you: require treatment that cannot be undertaken at home (this may include medication given into a vein “IV drip”); need investigations that are best carried out with you staying in hospital a few days; or if you are too unwell to manage at home.
On arrival at hospital you will initially stay in the acute assessment area.  If you only need to stay 24 hours or less you may stay in this area, but if it looks as though you will need longer you will go to an inpatient ward.
Often the immediate cause of an illness is not known and the general medical team manages the investigation and subsequent treatment of most illness although sometimes in consultation with other specialists. In some cases, you may be transferred to another team if your condition could be better managed by other specialists.
 
When you are discharged your GP is notified about what has happened in hospital and any follow up plans.
 
The Medical Ward
 
Staff on the ward include: Nurses, Doctors, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Social Workers and Speech Therapists.
Physiotherapists are experts in movement and function.  They provide equipment if needed as well as exercises aimed to improve movement, pain, weakness or balance. 
Occupational Therapists are experts in function. They look at what you do during the day and what might help to achieve things you are struggling with. 
Social Workers provide support for you and your family.  They are able to provide counselling to get through difficult times as well as advice about your rights as a patient.
Speech Therapists are experts in problems with speech and communication.  They are also experts in swallowing.
 
General Medical Outpatient Clinic
 
If your GP wants advice about the diagnosis or management of an illness, they may refer you to this clinic.  Your referral is given priority depending on the information in the referral letter.  It is important that, if your condition worsens while waiting to be seen, you revisit your GP as we can see you sooner if your situation changes.  Our average waiting time for a routine outpatient appointment is 6 months.  Prior to this appointment you may have some investigations undertaken such as blood tests, ECG (recording of heart beat) or x-rays.  These are to help the doctor make a diagnosis or plan treatment when they see you initially. 
 
At the clinic you will be seen by a consultant or registrar (who will discuss your case with the consultant). The doctor will take a detailed history of your symptoms and ask about previous illnesses and what medication you are on.  Part of history-taking includes asking questions about what you do for a living, who you live with or what support you have.  You will also be asked about smoking, alcohol etc.  There will be other questions about your health designed to add helpful information to diagnose what is causing your symptoms.  The doctor will then examine you.  They will explain to you as they go the reason for the examination and then what tests or treatments are coming.
 
You may be started on some medications or asked to undergo further testing before being seen or referred back to your GP. A letter will be sent to your GP with any recommendations as well as the results of any tests that are undertaken.
 
The medical outpatient clinic is also where you may be seen after you have been discharged from hospital to follow up any outstanding investigations or to see how you have improved or tolerated medications.

Contact Details

Emergency Department:
Ph (03) 218 1949, 24 hours / 7 days

 

Kew Road
Invercargill

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Street Address

Kew Road
Invercargill

Postal Address

Southland Hospital
PO Box 828
Invercargill 9840

This page was last updated at 9:58AM on June 18, 2019. This information is reviewed and edited by Southern DHB General Medicine - Southland.