No let-up on doctor shortages
Health Minister Roger Cook says there is no quick fix for the shortage of doctors in emergency rooms throughout the region as the State and Federal governments go back and forth over responsibility.
“Canberra must act now on the shortage of GPs in regional WA,” Mr Cook told the Herald.
“It’s not simply a quick fix of more money or better housing, a range of different policy settings — all controlled by the Federal Government — need to be reviewed.”
Health Minister Roger Cook says there is no “quick fix” for the shortage of doctors in emergency rooms throughout the region as State and Federal Government go back and forth over responsibility.
Damning statics revealed in State Parliament last month showed no GPs were available on 174 occasions across hospitals at Narrogin, Katanning and Merredin in the 2018-19 financial year.
Katanning accounted for more than 100 of those instances.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said he had been in talks with the Federal Government after Premier Mark McGowan flagged the shortage as Canberra’s responsibility.
“I have already raised this issue with the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, and will continue to lobby for action and a fairer share for WA. Canberra must act on the shortage of GPs in regional WA,” he said.
“It’s not simply a quick fix of more money or better housing, a range of different policy settings — all controlled by the Federal Government — need to be reviewed.
“These include visa restrictions on overseas trained doctors, settings for district priority areas and enabling regional GPs to access Medicare rebates for telehealth.”
Federal Member for O’Connor and Coalition MP Rick Wilson said the Morrison Government was investing $62.2 million over four years to start a National Rural Generalist Pathway, which included more than $1.2 million for Katanning and Kojonup.
“The (Federal) Government does not fund private medical practices or play a direct role in employing health professionals,” he said.
“But we do fund a number of targeted health workforce programs to provide incentives to doctors to move to and remain in regional, rural and remote Australia.
“I know there are a number of online GP consultation services now available, which have helped fill the gap in regional Australia.
“While attracting professionals to our communities is the preferred option, as technology advances medical consultations via Facetime and other video apps while you are on your couch may go some way to ensuring we all have access to medical advice.”
Nationals WA leader and Member for Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies said attacks on the Royalties for Regions program had made it harder for regional communities to attract qualified doctors.
“When we were in government, we had an initiative called the Southern Inland Health Initiative and we provided incentives for doctors that provided coverage into our emergency departments in major regional centres,” she said.
“And so if they were prepared as a GP anywhere in the region to cover a shift in either Narrogin or Katanning or Merredin or Northam, they were provided with an incentive payment.”
“That was funded through Royalties for Regions . . . unfortunately, this Government has, I guess, pilfered Royalties for Regions for other purposes.”
Ms Davies said the Premier had missed the mark in his responses to questions from Member for Roe Peter Rundle in Parliament.
“While he’s (Mr McGowan) right that doctors are the responsibility of the Federal Government, the State Government system — in particular, our hospitals — rely on having doctors for our emergency departments,” she said.
“And the thing that causes people most concern, after the fact that they don’t have a family doctor, is that they actually can’t get to an emergency department that is fully staffed when they need it.”