Uphill battle recruiting rural GPs

New doctors: Leongatha Healthcare has two new doctors, Drs Su Lee and Veronica Foote, whom started at the clinic last month.

REGIONAL areas have traditionally remained a difficult area to attract healthcare professionals to.
Some of the driving factors for regional shortfalls cited by rural clinics, practices and hospitals around Leongatha include disincentives for on-call, after hours work and doctors being away from families in Melbourne.
According to the Regional Workforce Agency Victoria, Gippsland has 33 vacancies for GPs and allied health related fields.
It seems the days are long gone where the likes of OAM recipient and founding member of Leongatha Healthcare Dr Michael Bourke, routinely worked until the late evening hours.
“We just don’t see many Dr Bourkes these days and I’m sure he did it (on-call after hours visits) with fewer doctors,” practice manger at Leongatha Healthcare Judy Robb said.
“Leongatha Healthcare is in a reasonable position for GPs and we have anaesthetists and obstetricians.
“But two of the biggest obstacles in retaining medical professionals regionally is the pressure of 24 hour after hours commitment and the fact that by the time a doctor has finished studies and training, a family base may already be setup with their partners, family, children, schooling and networks.”
CEO of Gippsland Southern Health Service Mark Johnson agreed.
“On-call services are a must regionally where that can largely remain an option in urban areas,” he said.
“Fractional appointments and long travelling between rural towns can also be a burden, but ultimately it comes down to personal choice.”
According to OECD statistics, there were about 3.6 physicians in Australia per 1000 people in 2016, but Mr Johnson thinks this number could be as low as one in regional areas.
Leongatha Healthcare has always provided a 24 hour service and works in conjunction with the hospital, giving credentials to GPs.
Eighteen GPs work there mostly on a part-time basis at two sites, including the integrated primary care centre in the hospital grounds.
Throughout Ms Robb’s 15 years at Leongatha Healthcare, she has always noted a shortage of GPs.
Specialists do come but are rare, with some available only a day per week or month.
“What I’d like to see is a community support group setup, integrating new doctors into the clinic family and broader community,” Ms Robb added.
“I floated the idea with council but it never took off and it’s time consuming enough managing the practice.
“We do have students come into the clinic, aligned with the Gippsland School of Rural Health. There is also a Monash School of Rural Health here in Leongatha too.
“We recruit largely by word of mouth. Together with Eastern Victoria GP Training we have a GP training program with four to five doctors on the registrars at once but the turnover is large.
“It’s out of our practice’s hands as to how long they are placed or stay.”

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=27816

Posted by on Mar 13 2019. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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