Practice managers warn GP shortage to worsen
A GROUP of medical practice managers is warning Gladstone’s already limited number of general practitioners will drop by January.
Since a federal legislation change on July 1 Gladstone and Tannum Sands practices must hire Australian doctors who have passed their Australian GP exam or doctors who have worked in Australia for 10 years.
A combined 11 practices across the region have 39.2 full-time equivalent GPs and six registrars.
This number is expected to drop to 36.6 FTE GPs and 3.4 registrars by the start of next year.
Gladstone GP Super Clinic and Calliope Medical Centre practice manager Annette Coleborn said she had two Australian trained doctors about to retire.
“I’m not going to get an Australian trained doctor to come to replace them,” Ms Coleborn said.
Toolooa Family Practice manager Sam Moore said she was fortunate to have five GPs but did not have the space to house them all and was unable to relocate under the Distribution Priority Area changes.
“For some practices now there’s an issue but the biggest thing I think are the issues to come,” Mrs Moore said.
“I don’t think any of us have had Australian doctors willing to move to Gladstone and join any of our clinics.”
Both managers agreed better incentives were needed to attract GPs to Gladstone.
Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd said he had been liaising with Minister for Regional Services Mark Coulton’s office to find a solution.
“This is a priority,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“The Primary Health Network and the State Government also need to be factored into the solution package.”
Mr Coulton said addressing health workforce issues was not simple and required a mix of short, medium and long-term strategies.
“This is a challenging policy area for rural and remote areas across the country, however, Gladstone is a vibrant regional centre and I encourage doctors to consider moving to the region,” Mr Coulton said.
“The Department of Health, Health Workforce Queensland and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia is working with the community and other agencies to develop a local plan.
“I recently joined regional medical leaders at the Rural Medicines Australia Conference to discuss ways to address workforce distribution in the Gladstone area and develop a local workforce strategy to support the region.”