Doctors fear super-clinics detrimental to the bush
LABOR’S plan to spend $220 million to establish GP super-clinics could attract doctors away from rural towns that already lack medical services. Health groups commend the plan for recognising the need to provide multi-disciplinary and preventative health care, but many believe Labor has provided no incentive for GPs and specialists to work in rural areas.
The provision of primary healthcare infrastructure, such as doctors’ surgeries, is a significant problem in rural Australia given the cost involved in developing this infrastructure and the immense financial risks involved,’’ the Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s immediate past president, Ross Maxwell said.
However, Labor’s initiative to develop GP super-clinics will only address a small number of projects nationally, and many smaller rural and remote centres will miss out. These communities also desperately need assurance that their immediate and long-term health needs will be met by new investment in much-needed primary healthcare infrastructure.’’
Maxwell said rural and remote communities need a commitment from government that a reasonable and sustainable level of services will be provided.
If rural health services are to survive, improved initiatives and incentives to get and keep more doctors and health professionals in the bush must be put in place alongside any infrastructure support initiatives.
The knife-edge economics of rural practice must be addressed and appropriate incentives and financial support put in place to attract and retain many more rural doctors, as at least 1000 additional doctors are required in rural areas immediately just to ensure basic medical care in the bush.’’
However, Labor claims the super-clinics will be located in areas where there is currently poor access to services, in particular doctor shortages and subsequent underutilisation of Medicare services, including low safety-net benefits.’’
The clinics would be established in areas where it is believed they would reduce pressure on local public hospitals, in areas with high levels of chronic disease, and among populations with a large number of children or elderly. These criteria mean the clinics are most likely to be located in regional towns and outer metropolitan areas,’’ Labor’s New Directions for Australia’s Health document states.
The $220 million super-clinic fund will run for four years and include incentive payments to encourage a mix of health professionals to work together at the same clinic. The type of
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