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Foreign-trained doctors get started in Gladstone then leave

Norm Wyatt at 97 doesn't know if he could survive changing doctors. Photo Campbell Gellie / The Observer
Norm Wyatt at 97 doesn't know if he could survive changing doctors. Photo Campbell Gellie / The Observer Campbell Gellie

NORM Wyatt is 97 and he wants to avoid changing doctors, again.

But chances are he might have to; according to the statistics his doctor will be leaving town soon.

BITS Medical Centre's Dr Gaston Boulanger said Gladstone had been poorly branded and that was what was making it difficult to retain medical staff here.

"Gladstone has a bad reputation within Australia. Australian doctors won't come here," he said.

"We train (foreign doctors) up to fellows, get them through the exam and they are off to Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast," he said.

Mr Wyatt doesn't mind where his doctor comes from though; his current doctor "has a name that's difficult to spell but she is good and thorough".

"My first doctor in Gladstone was Chinese, Dr Yum. He sewed up my foot when I jumped on an axe," he said.

"I just don't think I could change again. At my age you're walking a pretty fine line. I have six pills in the morning, two at midday and two at dinner. I don't know what's in them (the pills). They haven't killed me so they must be working."

Mr Wyatt is happy to put his trust in the hands of his local medical professionals but it's a revolving door; he's just getting familiar with his new doctor, after the last one upped and left.

And that's a trend the city is used to seeing. In the past month Gladstone Super Clinic lost two of its three newly qualified foreign-trained doctors, leaving its director, Dr John Bird, without any long-term benefit from what has been a 10-year investment for him.

"At the end of the day you get these doctors up to speed, and they have their specialist qualifications, only to move back to an urban environment," he said.

He said there needed to be ongoing targeted incentives such as loading of rebate for services delivered to rural people. The Gladstone region is classed as a "district of workforce shortage" because it is behind the national average for medical-service provisions.

Department of Health 2014 statistics show 74% of Gladstone's 79 general practitioners are foreign-trained while in Rockhampton it's 64% and in Bundaberg 56%.

Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash met with Gladstone health professionals this week to discuss this issue.

Topics:  doctors gladstone health



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