Clinics choked by lack of GPs
HEALTH services in Townsville are being affected by a continuing shortage of GPs.
Northern Beaches GP Superclinic operations director Kevin Gillespie said it was hard to recruit GPs, especially for after- hours work such as weekends.
“The promised flow of GPs from James Cook University isn’t happening,” he said.
“Those doctors who do graduate regularly move to the capital cities.
“It’s also much harder now to recruit doctors from overseas due to government restrictions in Townsville, which make it particularly tough for all medical centres here.”
Upper Ross Medical Centre practice manager Tatiana Stefanos said expansion plans for the centre had to be put on hold because of staff levels.
“Through natural attrition, some of our GPs have moved on and we are finding the pressure put on the remaining doctors to function a seven- day- aweek operation is getting to a point that we will have to make some tough decisions,” she said.
“We are not going to make any decisions quickly but there are less people to do what used to be done with more people.”
Ms Stefanos said there needed to be an incentive for locally trained doctors to stay in Townsville.
“Is changing the visas for overseas doctors the answer? I’m not so sure,” she said.
“Sometimes that is a gamble in itself. We don’t always know what training they have had.
“We invest, as a country, so much training in our GPs here and we have a wonderful medical school. We need to find a way to keep them here in Townsville.”
Ms Stefanos said the centre had hoped to offer a weightloss clinic but due to a lack of GPs that plan would be put on hold.
“There is a high need for such a clinic because we have so many diabetic patients,” she said. “It is so difficult to offer these services with our staff levels. We are still going to try very hard though.”
Readers have contacted the Bulletin concerned the Townsville GP Superclinic in Hyde Park has reduced its weekend hours due to a lack of GPs.
But Townsville GP Superclinic CEO Sharyn Abel said the clinic’s closure on a Sunday afternoon was a “one- off’’ due to a doctor calling in sick.
The clinic was also closed on July 9 because of a conference in Cairns.
“We have enough doctors at the moment but that’s not to say we don’t want more,” she said. “I think all medical centres in Townsville would gladly hire more GPs.”
Northern Australia Primary Health chairman Dr Kevin Arlett said Townsville’s ability to attract overseas- trained doctors was limited since the city’s rural health status had changed.
“The clinics can’t get a provider number for them ( overseas- trained doctors) because of the restrictions on the provider numbers related to the removal of Townsville from the rural status,” Dr Arlett said.