Dire doctor issue prompts extreme action
QUEENSLAND Health has been accused of providing substandard care in the regions amid revelations that 40 per cent of Yeppoon Hospital's doctors are fly-in, fly-out.
The accusations come after the Health Department launched a recruitment video spruiking the Sunshine State's "stunning" coastline and pay packets of up to $205,000 a year. New data shows the heavy reliance on locum medicos in rural towns.
At Yeppoon Hospital, 40 per cent of weekly doctor shifts are filled by locums as the local health board admits it can't employ enough workers.
In Gladstone, 20 per cent of shifts are filled with locum doctors, whereas in the more metropolitan town of Rockhampton, locums are needed for just 8 per cent of shifts.
Queensland Health has launched a recruitment search for senior medical officers in which candidates are being tempted with year-long sunshine and a pay packet of up to $205,000.
A five-minute video seen by The Courier-Mail baits potential applicants with descriptions of "stunning coastal bays and islands", "elegant streetscapes with majestic sandstone buildings" and "flexible working" for a balanced family life.
The Opposition has dubbed the doctors "FIFO medics", with leader Deb Frecklington questioning how a hospital could operate properly with such a high temporary workforce.
"Doctors are turning their back on our regional hospitals," she said. "No hospital can function properly if 40 per cent of its doctors are just passing through. It's unacceptable for regional Queenslanders to have a second-class health service."
Yeppoon Hospital has about 51 medical shifts a week, with 30 filled by permanent staff and 21 by locums. At Rockhampton, 29 of 349 shifts are filled by locums and it's 17 of 82 at Gladstone Hospital.
Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CQHHS) chief executive Steve Williamson said permanent staff were preferred.
"But when that's not possible, we ensure the people of central Queensland have access to the health care they need by filling shifts with locum staff," he said.
"Where possible, we ensure that the same locum doctors return on a regular basis to maintain continuity of care."
Mr Williamson said the service was working on strategies to overcome "recruitment and retention challenges". He said a collaboration with CQ University and The University of Queensland would deliver a full medical program by 2022.