The shortage of general practitioners across parts of regional NSW is at crisis point, according to Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips.
Welcoming a Senate inquiry into the provision of primary health services to rural and regional Australians, Ms Phillips said practical, positive solutions are needed.
“The GP shortage issue in my electorate is at crisis point,” she said.
“In the Bay and Basin area alone, we have seen seven doctors retire, with the one remaining doctor, at the Sanctuary Point Medical Centre, also retiring soon and no replacement in sight.
“Further, there is no difference [to the situation] within the Eurobodalla [Shire]. Constituents across Batemans Bay and Moruya are contacting my office and providing firsthand accounts of how it takes too long to get an appointment … [one] explaining her wait was 10 to 20 days.”
The inquiry into the provision of GPs within regional, rural and outer metropolitan areas nationwide is now open for submissions with a final report to be handed down next year.
The inquiry will examine policies such as the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, reforms to distribution priority areas, and the Modified Monash Model geographical classification system, which determines whether a location is city, rural, remote or very remote.
“The system is broken,” said Ms Phillips in a speech to Federal Parliament.
“A lack of doctors and other medical professionals across Australia is not a new problem, but a series of government decisions and the COVID-19 pandemic means it really is time to spotlight this critical issue before people are left with no healthcare options in their community.
“We need practical, positive solutions to make sure Australians have access to quality health care regardless of where they live.
“We now have a two-tier medical system where those who have lost their GP due to practice closure, retirement or relocation … have little or no access to a general practitioner.
“There is so much that needs to be done to improve regional people’s access to GPs. More than ever, the government needs to start listening.”
The inquiry’s terms of reference include the current state of GPs and related services in the region, and the impact of government reforms, including policies such as the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, GP training reforms, the Medicare rebate freeze, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on doctor shortages in outer metropolitan, rural and regional Australia.
Anyone wanting to make a submission to the Senate inquiry can do so here. The final report is due to be handed down on the last parliament sitting day in March 2022.