Clin­ics choked by lack of GPs

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - BETTINA WARBURTON bettina. warburton@ news. com. au

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.

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