‘VERY CONCERNED’: GP hiring restriction stays put
AFTER a year of outcries from doctors and practice managers, Gladstone and Tannum Sands remain excluded from the Distribution Priority Area for General Practitioners.
The ruling means practices can only hire GPs trained in Australia or who have practised in Australia for more than 10 years.
BITS medical practice manager Nicole Dickhaut said she was disappointed by the decision but not surprised.
“Throughout the year we haven’t had any explanation or insight into the figures or understanding into how the decision was made,” Ms Dickhaut said.
“All we have had is political jargon.
“I’m not surprised but very disappointed and very concerned.”
She said in the past year Gladstone had recorded a decrease to 37 full time equivalent GPs, each servicing almost 2000 patients, double the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommendation.
“It’s difficult to turn people away” she said.
“We’ve been closed to new patients since March 19 but we do not have a choice.
“A few other practices are not allowing new patients in.”
A spokesman from the Federal Department of Health said Gladstone and Tannum Sands had remained non-DPA for International Medical Graduates as they had been assessed as receiving adequate services for the needs of the community when compared to the Modified Monash Model MM 2 benchmark of GP services – classifying it as a “regional centre”.
“The Australian Government is well aware of the Gladstone community’s concerns for their local medical services through feedback from a range of contacts with local stakeholders,” the spokesman said.
“Under the DPA 2020 update, Gladstone- Tannum Sands has gained DPA status for Bonded Medical Places Scheme graduates, meaning that the area is able to recruit Australian BMP doctors, other towns do not have the same opportunity.”
Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd said the health of the Gladstone region and Flynn in the bigger scheme was one of his top prioritises.
He said upgrading the Gladstone Hospital from a level three to level four was a key part to attracting and retaining doctors.
“This will not only provide Gladstone and surrounds with a higher standard of health care, upgrading to a Level 4 Hospital will also help prevent the need for people to leave the area to obtain the health care they require,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“The Primary Health Network and the State Government also need to be factored into the solution package.”
Queensland Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm, who has previously asked Minister for Regional Health Mark Coulton to reconsider the classification, said it was disappointing the Federal Government hadn’t listened to the Gladstone and Tannum Sands community.
“Local medical practices and residents have made their concerns very clear but they’ve fallen on deaf ears,” Mr Chisholm said.
“This designation means that Gladstone will continue to suffer second rate access to health care.
“In fact, it will get worse: the reduction in number of doctors means Gladstone is sliding further below the ratio of one GP to 1000 patients recommended by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.”
Gladstone Regional Council Deputy Mayor Kahn Goodluck said the move to once again exclude Gladstone and Tannum Sands from the DPA had drastically limited the ability for local practices to attract doctors which would further reduce the access to GPs in the region.
He said in the past 12 months the council had called on the Australian Government Department of Health to reconsider this decision and he had written to every senator in Queensland asking for help to overturn the decision.
“This is a kick in the guts to every person in our region who needs access to a doctor and the future of health services in the Gladstone region,” Cr Goodluck said.
Ms Dickhaut has called on members of the community to continue to speak up about this issue and put pressure on Ken O’Dowd and Mark Coulton.