Gladstone Region Councillor Kahn Goodluck has issued a call to arms across the Gladstone Region to hold the Department of Health to account following a decision to remove the Gladstone & Tannum Sands area off of the Distribution Priority Areas (DPA) of GP’s as of July 16th.

At Tuesday’s Gladstone Regional Council Meeting Councillors unanimously supported a motion to call on the Department of Health to reconsider the decision.

Motion: “Gladstone Regional Council calls on the Australian Government, Department of Health to reconsider the removal of Gladstone-Tannum Sands from the Distribution Priority Areas for GP’s as of the 16th July 2019.”

Cr Goodluck said the removal of the local area from DPA list could potentially further damage the region’s ability to attract GP’s to service the local community. “This decision will have a disastrous result for GP services in the Gladstone Region and our community that already struggles with a lack of services as it is. Our GP’s are already unable to keep up with the workload with the legislative framework that seems forever stacked against successful outcomes in regional centres.”

The decision to remove the Gladstone – Tannum Sands area from the DPA list mean that GP Practices can only contract doctors who have passed their Australian GP exam and have worked in Australia for ten years. In effect, this means Gladstone will no longer be able to attract foreign-trained doctors.

In a statement on social media, Cr Goodluck said that in the last 11 years BITS Medical, in Boyne Island, have been successful in attracting precisely 0 Australian trained doctors. “The same goes for the majority of practices in our region if not all of them.  The fact is that Australian trained doctors are not attracted to regional centres such as Gladstone despite every effort from our regional practitioners and this is why they must seek foreign-trained doctors to serve our community,” Cr Goodluck added.

The decision to remove the region from the DPA had been based on census data gathered in 2016. Cr Goodluck said that when the census data was collected, the Gladstone Region was still affected by a construction boom which was winding down and subsequently our economy has since experienced a significant downturn.

 Gladstone News has contacted the Minister for Health, Honorable Greg Hunt MP for comment and will provide an update as soon as it is received. 

“The Royal College of Practicitional recommends an average ratio of 1 doctor per 1000 patients,” Cr Goodluck explained. “We currently have approx 40 FTE doctors practising in our region servicing above 60,000 people. That is 20 doctors short, and so this determination is flawed and does not serve the best interests of our people.”

“Please make sure you raise the issue of health in Gladstone Region whenever you are talking to your local members – be it bulk billing, access to GP’s or the hospital! Together we can make sure our voice is heard and get some action,” Councillor Goodluck added.

An article by Amanda Lyons on the Royal Australian College of GP’s website published 1st July explains that “The Department of Health (DoH) has, from 1 July, changed its District of Workforce Shortage assessment areas for GPs and bonded doctors to a new Distribution Priority Areas classification.”

While both systems are designed to identify the locations in Australia with a shortage of Medical Practitioners and to facilitate the placement of GP’s within the communities of greatest need, the new Distribution Priority Area system takes into account the characteristics of patients living in GP catchments, and considers factors including demographics, such as gender and age, and socioeconomic status rather than the GP-to-population ratio the DWS system used its classification.