THE BIG SELL: Rural Health Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie with Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd on May 15.
THE BIG SELL: Rural Health Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie with Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd on May 15. Matt Taylor GLA150518MINI

Budget sell begins in Flynn with ministerial visit

THE Federal Government's effort to sell the 2018 budget in Gladstone began in earnest yesterday with a visit from Nationals deputy leader Senator Bridget McKenzie.

The Minister for Rural Health, Sport and Regional Communications visited Calliope Medical Centre and the Gladstone GP Super Clinic with Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd to discuss the regional doctor shortage, before stopping in at Craig's Bakery for a chat with Mayor Matt Burnett.

Senator McKenzie pointed to the government's $550 million Stronger Rural Health Strategy as a significant step in the right direction towards addressing the shortage.

The strategy aims to put 3000 more doctors into regional Australia over the next 10 years by teaching and training them in the regions from the beginning.

"What the evidence shows is, the more you train in the regions, the more likely you are to stay and practice in the regions," Senator McKenzie said.

She said the Calliope clinic was still seeking a permanent GP but the presence of allied health professionals at the clinic could make it an attractive offer.

"They've got some really good support structures there, they just need a GP," she said.

Senator McKenzie also acknowledged the lack of bulk-billing services able to be accessed in Gladstone.

No GP clinics in Gladstone currently offer bulk-billing services to all of their patients, after the practice known as general bulk-billing was canned at two clinics earlier this year in favour of a mixed model.

Senator McKenzie said the problem would be lessened over time by competition, once more doctors began to arrive in regional communities.

"When you've got a shortage of doctors they charge what they like ... at the end of the day it's up to each and every GP their fee that they set," she said.

Mr O'Dowd thanked the minister for her visit and praised the budget's funding of 14,000 extra Home Care Packages - a key item on his pre-budget wish list.

"I'm also talking to the mayor today about extending (aged care) facilities in Gladstone itself," he said.