PROFESSIONAL ASSESSMENT: Australian Medical Association representative for the Fraser Coast, Dr Shaun Rudd, says the closure of Howard Medical Clinic highlights problems the region is facing. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle
PROFESSIONAL ASSESSMENT: Australian Medical Association representative for the Fraser Coast, Dr Shaun Rudd, says the closure of Howard Medical Clinic highlights problems the region is facing. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle Robyne Cuerel

GP crisis reflected in numbers

THE Fraser Coast is struggling to attract GPs in Maryborough and its outlying areas despite generous council incentives.

At the same time, Hervey Bay appears to have surplus practitioners being tempted by its seaside location, modern development and relaxed lifestyle.

That is the view of the region's Australian Medical Association representative Shaun Rudd.

Dr Rudd said the closure of Howard's Monsour Medical Clinic last week simply highlighted the combination of failings in government policy and a shift in the attitude of doctors.

He said while Australian-trained GPs could practice in any part of the country they choose, professionals trained overseas were forced into disadvantaged regions, a category Maryborough does not fall into.

"There is the area of need, which is determined by the state and territory governments and, there's a district of workforce shortage, which is determined by the Federal Government," Dr Rudd said.

"The district of workforce shortage is really the clincher, if there's a district of workforce shortage you can bring professionals or doctors in from overseas - OTDs they are known as.

"And if you don't have a district of workforce shortage you have to try to get somebody who is already in Australia and that is where Maryborough really has a problem because even though it's not classified as a district of workforce shortage it clearly is."

GP Links Wide Bay, an organisation supporting the interests of general practitioners, lists 96 GPs as operating on the Fraser Coast.

Of those, 63 are listed as practicing from central Hervey Bay, 27 from central Maryborough and six in outlying towns such as Bauple and Burrum Heads.

Population figures for the electoral divisions at the 2011 Census show the doctors are far from evenly spread.

The Maryborough electorate, which includes towns such as Bauple and Burrum Heads, had one GP for every 1474 people living inside its borders.

While in contrast, Hervey Bay had one GP for every 776 people in its electorate.

Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell, a member of the Fraser Coast Health Taskforce, said the body was working with doctors and the medical profession to lobby the Federal Government to release more Medicare provider numbers so more doctors can set up surgeries.

He said council also hoped the development of the new St Stephens hospital in Hervey Bay would attract doctors to the region, of which, some would want to work in smaller centres.



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