No let-up on doctor short­ages

Great Southern Herald - - Front Page - Michael Traill and Daryna Zad­virna

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.”

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