Health industry stakeholders will meet to discuss issues in the Gladstone region today.
Health industry stakeholders will meet to discuss issues in the Gladstone region today.

Forum to address ‘longstanding’ health service issues

A FORUM with Regional Services Minister Mark Coulton will be held in Gladstone today to discuss the challenges faced by local health services.

Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said he invited Mr Coulton to Gladstone so he could hear first hand the "diverse" issues faced by regional and rural doctors.

"I'm very pleased to have my friend and colleague Minister Coulton joining us to see first hand Gladstone's challenges and I certainly appreciate the interest from a range of national stakeholders who see Gladstone's situation as an important one to address.

"Challenges facing local services are longstanding and, I suspect, diverse," Mr O'Dowd said.

"I've called this forum with the intention of cutting through to the core issues by having a diverse assortment of local representatives and state and national bodies in the same room."

Mr Coulton said the forum offered an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to make clear both the challenges and opportunities before the local community.

Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton speaks at a press conference outside the Empire Theatre, flanked by Richard Wankmuller, Dr John McVeigh, and John Fullerton.
Minister for Regional Services Mark Coulton.

"Across regional Australia, workforce distribution is identified as a major challenge and we are working to address that through a range of measures.

"For a city like Gladstone with so much to attract health professionals, it's vital we get a frank and honest appraisal of what the barriers are," Mr Coulton said.

"With Gladstone set to feature prominently in a national rural health workforce conference in late October, this forum provides an exciting opportunity to provide information for that process."

Staunch advocate for better health services in the region Gaston Boulanger was pleased the minister had scheduled a meeting with stakeholders.

While the BITS Medical Centre owner was unable to attend due to being on holiday, he said it would provide another opportunity for health professionals to raise concerns about the recent change to the District Priority Area.

From July 1, Gladstone region doctors' practices were no longer able to hire overseas-trained doctors due to a reclassification to the DPA.

Previously the region was classified as a District of Workforce Shortage, which meant practices could hire overseas-trained general practitioners.

"I've been to Canberra and spoke to (Mr Coulton) and he's very interested," Dr Boulanger said.

"This means other people can discuss the problems with him that we have in Gladstone regarding health care."