Govt incentives fail to lure doctors
GYMPIE'S doctor shortage is unlikely to be relieved by this region's classification as an 'inner regional' area of Australia.
About a thousand Gympie residents are listed as patient's of Cooroy's Maple Street Surgery because of waiting times to see doctors here and a lack of access to bulk billing.
Under Australia's GP Rural Incentives Program, doctors are encouraged to serve time in the bush or establish practices outside the major cities through a series of incentives such as relocation grants - $15,000 in Gympie's case - HECS reimbursements and retention grants.
Doctors who practice in Gympie may be eligible for a $2500 grant to stay one year, $4500 to stay two, $7500 for three to four years and $12,000 for more than five years.
But under the Federal Government's Rural Relocation Incentive Grants guidelines, the incentives for doctors to come here are about half those on offer in 'outer regional' centres.
Townsville and Cairns are both classified 'outer regional', though they boast significantly higher populations than Gympie - Cairns 130,000 and Townsville 181,000 - with more services, facilities and airports.
GPs are offered $30,000 to go there, and up to $4000 to stay six months, $6000 to stay a year and $18,000 to stay more than five years.
They are also offered sweeter HECS reimbursement deals.
Gympie's classification is based on the Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Areas index.
The index was developed in 2001 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Its purpose is to classify data from census collection districts into broad geographical categories called Remoteness Areas.
The categories are defined in terms of the physical distance from the nearest urban centre based on population size.
They are updated after each census, but have yet to be updated following the 2011 census.
The Queensland AMA was contacted for comment yesterday but had not responded at time of press.
Cooroy's Dr Bill Brown said it was a chronic shortage of doctors and an inability to get a bulk-billing appointment that prompted up to 100 Gympie residents a month to travel 40 minutes down the coast.
Under the Federal Government's Rural Relocation Incentive Grants guidelines, the incentives for doctors to come here are about half those on offer in 'outer regional' centres.