Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine president Associate Professor Ewen McPhee, Nhulundu Health Services CEO Matthew Cooke and Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton discussed ongoing health issues in Gladstone on October 3.
Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine president Associate Professor Ewen McPhee, Nhulundu Health Services CEO Matthew Cooke and Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton discussed ongoing health issues in Gladstone on October 3.

‘We are at capacity’: Minister hears health cries

MATTHEW Cooke has been running Nhulundu Health Services without a permanent general practitioner for three years.

The indigenous practice has two locum doctors and is operating at capacity with 4500 patients.

His story was one of many told during a meeting in Gladstone today with Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton.

On the agenda were issues surrounding bulk billing, mental health and changes to the GP Distribution Priority Area.

Mr Coulton acknowledged the changes to the DPA, which meant practices could no longer hire overseas-trained doctors, had "exacerbated" healthcare issues in the region.

"These issues have been going on long before the 1st of July," Mr Coulton said.

"I think we need to look at the broader systemic reasons."

Mr Cooke said he was impressed by today's "calm" discussion.

"There are challenges around the (Medicare Benefits Schedule) not being adequate for bulk-billing services," he said.

"We are at capacity, we do our best with the array of services that we provide."

He said there was a need to ensure medical schools had the right pathways to bring doctors to Gladstone.

The meeting was led by Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine president Associate Professor Ewen McPhee.

"It's invaluable for us to hear about how we might be able to get more of our young doctors working in this community," Prof McPhee said.

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd set up the meeting after a constituency travelled to Canberra last month.

"What's come out loud and clear is we haven't got the services to back up our doctors and that's why we can't retain our doctors here," Mr O'Dowd said.