Iain Curry

Not even $100,000 carrot can lure docs to Gladstone

INCENTIVES worth up to $100,000 are failing to fill Gladstone's desperate medical shortfall.

The Federal Government is offering HECS debt rebates of about $60,000; relocation grants of $15,000; and $26,500 in retention grants for cardiologists, diagnostic radiologists, anaesthetists, general surgeons and psychiatrists.

The bonuses are to plug the region's medical gaps and ensure residents get the same healthcare as people in metropolitan areas.

But two of the country's health experts say more needs to be done.

AMA vice-president Stephen Parnis said Gladstone residents were paying the price as practitioner positions went begging.

"There are still many areas in regional Australia where you can't attract and retain the types of doctors that are needed," Dr Parnis said.

"When you look at almost every single health outcome, they show that people in rural and regional Australia have poorer outcomes than their city counterparts.

"Some of that will be related to accessing medical services.

"Medical workforce planning is incredibly complex and I don't think it's ever been done well."

RURAL Doctors Association of Australia president Professor Dennis Pashen said any moves to slash Medicare rebates would see young doctors struggling to build sustainable businesses in regional areas.

The Abbott government recently pushed for a $20 cut to the Medicare rebate for short GP consultations. The cut, just one in a raft of mooted Medicare changes, was expected to save $1.3 billion over four years.

But the plan was dumped after a major backlash.

"If young doctors have come through our pipeline and at the end of it there's a less attractive business model and they can earn just as much, if not more, in a metropolitan community, then they're going to take that option," Prof Pashen said.

He said metropolitan areas were reaping the benefits of the rural and regional incentive program.

"If you want people in outer metropolitan areas you set up a program to get them in those areas," he said.

AMA Queensland president Shaun Rudd said the Federal Government was on the right track. "It's a work in progress and it's progressing very well," Dr Rudd said of the push to fill the gaps.

"There are lots of incentives and there are more students, more doctors, coming through so that will make a difference."

Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash is considering a report on transitioning the General Practice Rural Incentives Program to the Modified Monash Model, which determines each region's medical workforce shortage.

Senator Nash was not available for comment.



Practitioners are needed in the following areas:

  • Anesthetics
  • Cardiology
  • Diagnostic radiology
  • General surgery
  • Psychiatry

Source: Australian Government

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