Doctors in the Gladstone region have said they are working long hours, servicing between 30 and 40 patients a day due to a shortage of General Practitioners.
Doctors in the Gladstone region have said they are working long hours, servicing between 30 and 40 patients a day due to a shortage of General Practitioners.

The battle for more doctors in Gladstone is on

The battle to get Gladstone relisted as a Distribution Priority Area for General Practitioners is on as the annual revision looms in the new financial year.

The Distribution Priority Area (DPA) classification identifies areas where people don't have enough access to doctors, based on the needs of the community.

On July 1, 2019, the Gladstone area was stripped of its classification as a DPA for doctors.

As a result, local medical centres can only hire Australian trained doctors, or doctors who have worked here for more than 10 years.

Several GPs have spoken out since the reclassification, stating they are forced to work long hours and service between 30 and 40 patients every day.

The DPA is regulated by the Federal Government.

Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said he was working very hard to provide solutions to the community in regards to the health services in the Gladstone Region.

"DPA classifications are calculated objectively using the latest data to ensure communities with the greatest need have access to the increased pool the classification provides," he said.

"Addressing regional health workforce issues is not simple and requires a mix of short, medium and long term strategies, which is why this government is investing in regional initiatives, such as the $550 million Stronger Rural Health Strategy, and 100 additional rural generalist training places.

 

Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd is battling to improve Gladstone’s health workforce. Picture: Rodney Stevens
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd is battling to improve Gladstone’s health workforce. Picture: Rodney Stevens

Mr O'Dowd said he was in regular contact with federal government ministers about improving the health workforce in Gladstone

"The Rural Workforce Agency, the Rural Doctors Association and the Primary Health Network are working with community to develop a local workforce recruitment plan," he said.

"The Federal Government can't compel doctors to practice in a specific location, but from my experience there are great opportunities and scope of practise on offer for doctors who choose to work in vibrant regional towns like Gladstone."

A Federal Health Department spokeswoman said the DPAs revisions were announced on July 1.

"The government acknowledges the populations of the GP catchments are not static and an annual update allows for any significant changes to the needs of a community to be captured. "This ensures the DPA will accurately distribute restricted GPs to the communities of greatest need and will take into account the changes that occur within a community from year to year.

"The next update is scheduled for July 1, 2021, and will account for changes in communities, including changing GP numbers, the population, or the age, gender or socio-economic groupings."

The spokeswoman said the 2020 update to the DPA for Gladstone was determined using the using the latest available Medicare Benefit Schedule billing data.

"Under the most recent DPA update on July 1, 2020, Gladstone gained DPA status for participants of the Bonded Medical Programs, meaning that the area is able to recruit from a larger pool of doctors, including Australian bonded doctors, compared to other towns that do not have the same classification," the spokeswoman said.

"Gladstone remained non-DPA for international medical graduates as they were assessed as receiving adequate services for the needs of the community when compared to the Modified Monash Model MM 2 benchmark of GP services."

 

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