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No option on after-hours medical care

Dr Mary Piepers outside Gympie’s now defunct Cooloola After Hours Medical Service, at Gympie Private Hospital.
Dr Mary Piepers outside Gympie’s now defunct Cooloola After Hours Medical Service, at Gympie Private Hospital. Tanya Easterby

OPPRESSIVE contract conditions, inadequate funding and sheer business realities have caused the closure of Gympie's only private after-hours general practitioner medical service.

One of the service's doctors, Dr Mary Piepers, said it was fortunate Gympie Hospital had agreed to take all the service's patients.

"We're very grateful to them for that," she said.

Officials of funding body Medicare Local visited Gympie from Maroochydore last night to talk to Gympie health professionals.

Dr Piepers said the service had closed for a range of reasons, each of them rendering it unviable.

"The ultimate nutshell reality - if we'd had enough patients to be viable we wouldn't have needed a government grant," she said.

"It would be business as usual.

"We need about 25 patients every week, with a $40 charge on top of Medicare's contribution.

"We only serve six to 12 people on a weekend, and we can well understand that for pensioners that extra $40 is a lot of money."

Dr Piepers said fatigue was another problem for doctors already working 40-50 hours during the week, then putting in another 10-20 hours on the weekend.

"We're all exhausted, especially after seven months negotiating with The Medicare Local on funding," she said.

She said onerous and oppressive contract conditions meant the money provided by the government was not enough to pay for their conditions.

"They had clauses allowing them to change the clauses unilaterally and to extend the contract indefinitely," she said.

"And they had gag clauses preventing us from discussing it.

"We don't want to attack The Medicare Local, but I was shocked that an Australian government body could offer a contract that was so onerous and unfair."

Topics:  closure general practitioner gympie hospital gympie private hospital medical services

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