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'Under the pump': Appeal for regional doctor support

Gladstone Valley Medical Centre has closed down.
Gladstone Valley Medical Centre has closed down. Chris Lees

THE sudden closure of Calliope and Gladstone Valley Medical Centres by its administrators sparked appeals for increased support for regional health practices.

Two of the nation's leading medical groups were not surprised by the closure both saying the need for regional health care support hit "crisis" level.

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Australian Medical Association Queensland's Dr John Hall said inadequate funding and an outdated Medicare scheme were creating a "bleak" industry for regional health care.

BITS Medical Centre owner Gaston Boulanger said the Medicare freeze, residents leaving town and rising costs made it difficult to do business in the region.

Dr Gaston Boulanger from BITS Medical Centre at Tannum Sands.
Dr Gaston Boulanger from BITS Medical Centre at Tannum Sands. Chris Chan

"Everyone knows everything has become much more expensive ... So it means it's getting harder to run a doctor's surgery," he said.

Dr Hall, AMAQ's state council representative, said the outlook was regional GP services were "under the pump" and struggling more than metro services.

The Federal Government partly lifted the Medicare rebate freeze in its 2017 budget, and announced a complete unfreeze in 2019.

But Dr Hall said the system needed an overhaul to bring it into line with regional practices expenses.

"(GP services) have two options, they can continue to bulk bill but they will struggle to be viable and will have to put through more people and spend less time with patients.

"The second option is to charge people ... You can't do both."

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Ewen McPhee said the need to attract doctors to regional areas had reached "crisis" level.

"It's known the regional areas have poorer health outcomes ... yet we don't do anything to support the deliver of doctors for these areas," he said.

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said the Government is considering a "tax break" for regional doctors.

Topics:  medical centre medicare medicare rebate



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