Miriam Vale struggles after months without a local doctor

IF you thought getting access to a GP in Gladstone was bad, spare a thought for Miriam Vale residents who have been struggling to get by without a local doctor for months.

For eight weeks last year, the town relied on a visiting doctor from Cal-Med Family Practice in Agnes Water, who offered a half a day service three times a week.

However, when the surgery went into administration late last year, residents were left with few options.

The drive to Gladstone and Tannum Sands to see a GP is especially inconvenient for Miriam Vale's elderly population.

Miriam Vale Pharmacy co-owner Jacqueline Johnstone said they were doing their best to fill in the gap.

"We do a lot more diagnosing, things like conjunctivitis, parents bringing in their children with croup. They check with us before they take the trip to Gladstone," she said.

Residents are also using the ambulance service to get medical attention for problems that Mrs Johnstone said could be dealt with by a GP in town.

Not having a local service is also putting an extra demand on Gladstone's already strained GP services.

"There is a need (for a doctor) but probably only three days a week," Mrs Johnstone said.

"Especially for parents with young children, they need to be able to see a doctor."

A spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Health said although the department was not directly involved in the recruitment of doctors, the Australian Government offered a number of financial and non-financial incentives to attract doctors to regional and remote areas.

To be eligible for the incentive programs, communities must be listed as having a district of workforce shortage (DWS), with the criteria based on population and Medicare billing data.

Because Miriam Vale has less access to medical services compared to the national average, its DWS status entitles the community to have an overseas-trained doctor to be sent there.

An advertisement seeking a doctor for Miriam Vale was placed with the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine but has not returned any interest.