Tales from a country doctor

Interesting insights into his everyday work life.

Dr. Gottfried Trattner is “our” GP in St. Veit and is very popular with his patients. He will soon train to become a rehab physician. Current research is focused on the best way to use our healing climate on the Salzburg Sun Terrace for curative stays. During these difficult times we chatted to the friendly doctor and learned several interesting things from him. He shares with us why becoming a doctor wasn’t his first choice and how it has become his dream job.

 

What’s life like as a country doctor on the Salzburg Sun Terrace? We asked St. Veit’s GP Dr. Gottfried Trattner for an interview.

 

Why did you choose this profession?

Dr. Trattner:
Actually, I wanted to become a physiotherapist. Unfortunately or luckily, I failed the entrance exam three times. In order to bridge the gap between these exams, I started studying medicine. The studies became more and more interesting, and seeing as doctor isn’t a bad job, I decided to complete my studies. GP has since become my dream job and I’m actually very happy that physiotherapy didn’t work out.

What are the differences for GPs between the city and the country?

Dr. Trattner:
I mostly stood in for doctors in the countryside after my rotation. I’d imagine that the relationship with patients is a bit closer in the country than in the city. An almost friendly relationship develops with some patients over the years. There’s also a lot of appreciation and gratitude for country doctors. I often receive gifts from patients, such as chanterelles, marmalades, eggs, bacon, chocolates etc. – I’m always delighted with those. That’s less the case in the city.

How often are patients visited at home?

Dr. Trattner:
Some of my patients are already at a very advanced age or have poor mobility, and find it difficult to visit the doctor’s office. It goes without saying that I make regular house calls for these patients. Additionally, my colleagues and I attend to the retirement home in St. Veit and the Provinzenz-Heim in Schwarzach. That makes for quite a few hours in a week!

Furthermore, we also have to be on call. My colleagues and I are usually reachable until 11 pm on weekdays. After that, a phone service is responsible for the entire province. Unfortunately, many patients still prefer going to the hospital immediately even though that’s not really the point. Clinics should only be visited if there are genuine emergencies or after referral by a general practitioner. This would save the health care system a lot of money.

Is travelling arduous, especially in winter?

Dr. Trattner:
I’m all set for making rounds in winter with spikes and all-wheel-drive. However, many houses in our medical district are very remote. My wife often worries if I’ll make it back it one piece when there’s snow in winter.

Why are there so few GPs? Why is this profession so “unpopular”?

Dr. Trattner:
Many students rarely come across the general practice field during their studies. They mostly complete their clinical traineeship in hospital, the common trunk almost exclusively takes place there as well. As such, many young colleagues don’t even get to familiarise themselves with this field. If a student somehow happens to end up in my office, most of them are excited by general medicine. A lot change their opinion and can imagine life as a GP after a work placement. Additionally, there’s a lot of work and salaries are certainly worse than for medical specialists.

I find general medicine to be the most varied and interesting field in medicine. No two days are the same. You see patients of all ages, from cardiac arrest to inflammation of the middle ear, from trivial infections to lumbago. The main task is certainly to filter out the more serious diseases among the many patients each day and to refer or treat them accordingly. A “harmless pain in the upper abdomen” can frequently hide a cardiac arrest. Recognising that isn’t always that easy with our high number of patients.

How difficult is it to coordinate patients during a pandemic? Are patients nervous or even scared with it comes to the Corona virus?

Dr. Trattner:
Our daily work certainly wasn’t ideal at the start of Corona. We had far too little protective equipment and, sadly, several colleagues fell ill with COVID infection. There was initially a lot of uncertainty among patients, but this has gone away well. Most patients know that they shouldn’t stop by my office if they have fever or flu-like symptoms and call first instead. We then decide whether or not testing is necessary. This works very well now. It’s hard to foresee what the winter will bring. I hope that rapid tests will soon become available allowing us to test in the office and get a result within minutes. That would certainly make things easier.