Launch of a Federal Senate inquiry into the regional shortage of general practitioners

MP for McEwen Rob Mitchell.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

A SHORTAGE of GPs in Mitchell and Macedon Ranges counties will now be investigated by the Senate.

Following a nationwide campaign by Labor MPs, an inquiry into the provision of GPs to metropolitan, rural and outside regional Australians was called last week and is now open for submissions, with a final report expected to be released. returned next year.

McEwen MP Rob Mitchell backed Labor calls for the inquiry after urging the government to address the growing problem.

“I desperately lobbied the Morrison government to no avail,” Mr Mitchell said.

“We deserve timely access to affordable health care to support our physical, mental and social well-being.”

Mr Mitchell said the government had not only failed to act on the issue, but had exacerbated the shortage by reclassifying areas like Wallan from rural to metropolitan, known as a non-delivery priority area, narrowing the criteria eligibility of doctors to practice and therefore discouraging general practitioners from traveling to the region.

“The shortage of doctors and other healthcare professionals in Australia’s regional and rural communities is not a new problem, but a series of government decisions and the pandemic mean it is really time to shine a light this critical issue before people are left without health care options in their community,” he said.

“There just aren’t enough doctors in our cities to meet the needs of our community and that’s preventing people from making appointments when they need them most.”

The proposed survey will explore the crisis of GPs in metropolitan, rural and peripheral regional areas nationwide, including an assessment of policies such as the rural health strategy, priority distribution area reforms and the health care system. geographical classification of the modified Monash model.

It would also look at GP training reforms and the impact of a Medicare reimbursement freeze, which was initially temporarily installed following the global financial crisis but was later extended when the Coalition was elected. in 2014.

“Labour wants the Inquiry to look for practical positive solutions to ensure Australians have access to quality health care, no matter where they live,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Labour will seek the support of cross-bank senators and the National Party to establish this important inquiry.”

Mr Mitchell wrote to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in May to share the experiences of many in his constituency who had shared concerns about long waits to see a doctor or be referred out of the region to get timely medical help.

“People here at McEwen know from bitter experience that access to timely medical help goes from bad to worse, and the pandemic is only exacerbating the problem,” he said.

“But Mr Hunt rejects our claims, saying the data indicates we have better access to health care than we apparently realize.”

When the DPA classifications were renewed on July 1, Wallan remained a non-DPA.

At the time the Department of Health told the review, Wallan had been assessed as having 10% above the healthcare access benchmark, which was established by looking at Australian communities.

“This means that there are many other communities with lower access to health services, compared to Wallan, and foreign-trained doctors are currently prioritized for these other communities,” a spokesperson for the office said. department.

The spokesperson said the government is tackling the national shortage of rural doctors by investing significantly in better access to health services through the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, SRHS.

“While the government does not play a direct role in hiring healthcare professionals, it does fund a range of programs to recruit and retain healthcare professionals in rural Australia and improve access to health services for regional, rural and remote communities,” they said.

Mr Mitchell said he was “flabbergasted” by Wallan’s new non-DPA classification.

“The federal health minister’s response to our appeals is to tell us that we should feel lucky, compared to other communities that have lower access to health services,” he said.

“For me, it’s a slap in the face for everyone in our community who is having difficulty seeing a doctor.

“A Senate investigation will certainly help put the facts on the table.”

Bids can be submitted via www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/PrimaryHealthServices.

Norman D. Briggs