GPs lose financial lure to regions
DOCTORS in Townsville and Mackay will no longer be given a special incentive payment to come and work in the city.
Regional cities with populations over 50,000 are no longer eligible for the payment after the Federal Government’s overhaul of the General Practice Rural Incentives Program came into effect on July 1.
Under the old system, $ 50 million a year was paid for doctors to live in 14 large regional cities, including Townsville, Mackay and Cairns.
While that will no longer be the case, doctors working in smaller towns will have their incentive payment increased. James Cook University Medical Education director Dr Tarun Sen Gupta said while Townsville had problems attracting medical professionals, it was tougher in rural towns.
“You can certainly say regional Queensland doesn’t have as strong a workforce as metro cities,” he said.
“But there are limited resources that need to be used where they are most needed – that is in the more remote and rural towns.
“With the medical school at JCU, we now have graduates staying in the north and a steady, homegrown workforce supply that wasn’t around 10 years ago.”
Dr Sen Gupta said more could be done to encourage local graduates to practise medicine locally by ensuring they had a pipeline to access training places for all specialties.
The Australian Medical Association said the previous classification system was criticised as being poorly targeted and the new system was flawed, too.
“The Government has … ignored our advice to ( continue to support) those GPs who were previously eligible for incentives but who no longer qualify under the new arrangements,” a spokesman said.
Assistant Minister for Health Senator Fiona Nash said the highest incentive paid to a doctor to work in remote Australia jumped from $ 47,000 a year to $ 60,000 a year, while those in towns with up to 15,000 people can receive up to $ 23,000.
“We’ve overhauled the system so the biggest incentives go the smallest and most remote towns, to help them attract the doctors they need,” Minister Nash said.
“Australia’s smallest rural towns have always struggled to attract doctors.”