Attracting and retaining doctors to Calliope, Boyne Island, Tannum Sands and Gladstone
I have been campaigning in Canberra for our need to attract more doctors and nurses to Flynn especially in Gladstone and Calliope.
Regional areas are grossly under-resourced, especially when compared to metropolitan areas. Metropolitan regions have approximately one doctor per 2000 residents while regional areas are serviced by approximately one doctor for every 4500 residents. Put simply, two and a half times fewer doctors in the bush than in the city.
My campaign to deliver more doctors led to a visit to Flynn last week from Minister for Rural Health, Senator Bridget McKenzie. Bridget and I met with health professionals to get a deeper understanding of the barriers preventing medical practices attracting and retaining the qualified personnel they need.
Minister McKenzie and I assured local health professionals that the Coalition Government is responding to the challenge of ensuring Australia has the right mix of health professionals to deliver high quality healthcare in rural and regional areas through the $550 million Stronger Rural Health Strategy announced in the Federal Budget last week.
Our comprehensive Stronger Rural Health Strategy will support 3000 additional specialist GPs and 3000 extra nurses and allied health professionals in rural general practices over the next decade, directly benefiting local communities in Queensland. An important element of the strategy is that it will also provide vital support to the teaching recruitment and retention of doctors in country Australia.
This is an historic 10-year plan which represents the most significant overhaul of Australia’s health system in decades and will have significant positive benefits for towns like Calliope, Boyne Island and Gladstone.
It is vital that we help support the training and retention of doctors in regional centres such as in my electorate of Flynn – it shouldn’t matter if you live in the city of Gladstone Calliope or the Central Highlands town of Springsure, you should have adequate access to a doctor.
The Minister for Rural Health and I also visited the Boyne Island Tannum Sands Medical Centre who received $300,000 in funding through the Rural General Practice Grants Program. We met and listened to Dr Gaston Boulanger and saw first-hand how important Commonwealth support is to ensuring practices like Dr Gaston’s remain open for residents.
The Stronger Rural Health Strategy will continue and expand on this support through quality data for workforce planning, better-targeted incentives for rural bulk billing and more training and support for the nursing workforce in general practice.
Through changes to the existing Skilled Migration Program in the 2018 Budget, Minister McKenzie reassured the local health service providers the Coalition Government will improve the targeting of visas for general practitioners to areas experiencing doctor shortages. Doctors will be directed away from over-serviced metropolitan and outer-metropolitan areas to regions of workforce need, which are our communities in rural, regional and remote areas. Projections show that by 2030 Australia may have as many as 7000 additional doctors. We know there is an inequitable distribution of doctors, and rural and remote Australia are still experiencing doctor shortages.
The Coalition Government’s Stronger Rural Health Strategy is a comprehensive package designed to address workforce distribution and will provide Australians with the right mix of qualified health professionals in the right place, at the right time to deliver high-quality healthcare.