Scarcity of doctors will dog Labor’s Super Clinics
WORKFORCE pressures mean Labor’s proposed network of GP Super Clinics are unlikely to be fully staffed until increased medical student places mature into increased numbers of newly graduating doctors.
Amid persistent complaints by doctors about the continuing medical workforce shortage, Labor health spokeswoman Nicola Roxon conceded this week that the new clinics would probably struggle to fill all their medical vacancies for the first year or two.
After announcing four more of the planned clinics in Tasmania and Queensland this week, Ms Roxon told Weekend Health that ‘‘ of course you probably won’t have a full complement (of doctors) from day one’’.
The difficulty of recruiting doctors, already in short supply, has been a persistent theme, even among the majority of health organisations that support Labor’s plans.
But Roxon says consultations with the medical profession strongly suggested the Super Clinic model — providing quality infrastructure that gave doctors an easy option to work in a multi-disciplinary team in under-serviced areas, without the need to buy into a practice — would be attractive in the long run.
‘‘ We are confident that by investing in this infrastructure we will maximise the chance of having large numbers of new graduates (attracted to general practice),’’ she said.
‘‘ Our view is that the new young graduates coming on-line in the next two to three years, if we don’t provide the best opportunity to attract them into general practice in areas that are being underserviced, we will lose the whole next generation (of doctors).
‘‘ This proposal gives us time to get the infrastructure up and running that will attract those new young professionals in larger numbers.’’
The GP Super Clinic program, announced last month, will cost $220 million over four years and will form part of Labor leader Kevin Rudd’s planned $2 billion health reform plan. Rudd pledged $10 million for the first clinic, in the Darwin suburb of Palmerston, earlier this month.
The announcements this week were for three clinics in Tasmania: up to $5 million for one in Devonport, up to $2.5 million for an after-hours clinic in Burnie, and up to $7.5 million for a Hobart clinic split across two sites, at Bellerive and Sorrell.
Mr Rudd and Ms Roxon also announced $15 million for an ‘‘ integrated care centre’’ in Launceston to provide services such as