Charters Towers Regional Council Mayor Frank Beveridge has backed calls from a local GP for a solution to the critical shortage of doctors locally.
Councillor Beveridge said the unwillingness of doctors to live and work in country towns like Charters Towers was being compounded by the Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) System that puts Townsville in the same category as Charters Towers.
Co-owner of Gold City Medical Centre in Charters Towers, Dr Jean Covey, has put out a call to Townsville GPs to fill in one day a week to help relieve pressure on local GPs dealing with a three-week-long waiting list.
Cr Beveridge said the health and quality of life of local residents was being compromised by the GP shortage which has gone on for far too long.
“Gold City Medical Centre has been advertising unsuccessfully for two full-time doctors for an extended period of time,” Cr Beveridge said.
“But it’s a reality that doctors will not come to work and live in Charters Towers while Townsville and Charters Towers are rated in the same category within this Remoteness Area System.
“The system allows doctors living and working in regional cities such as Townsville to claim the same rural bonuses as those in small towns. That’s so inequitable.”
Trainee doctors are required, as part of their qualification, to do six months in a rural setting, with the financial incentive being approximately $60,000 over three years.
Cr Beveridge said Charters Towers cannot compete with Townsville to attract young doctors without incentives for living in rural and remote communities.
“Gold City Medical Centre has not had any new trainee doctors since 2008, yet Townsville’s allocation of doctors has more than doubled in the past 10 or so years,” he said.
“This rating system must be changed, it’s flawed and we’re trying to get it changed.”
Cr Beveridge said the October meeting of the North Queensland Local Government Association in Cooktown will consider a submission from his Council calling on the Federal Government to review the ASGC-RA system urgently.
“This inequity must be addressed without any further delay,” Cr Beveridge said.
“We have the backing of Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) on this. The Federal Government gave a commitment months ago to fix the scheme but nothing has happened.
“Charters Towers Regional Council is aware of the important role that medical services play in the sustainability and viability of rural communities and welcomes the support from the RDAA.”
Cr Beveridge said all the ASGC-RA system had done was contribute to the developing crisis in primary health care across rural and remote parts of North Queensland.
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