Tue. Aug 16th, 2022

As another regional town loses its general practitioner, a long-standing Ballarat geriatrician has shared an “unpopular” opinion on how to address staffing shortages.

The last remaining GP in Smythesdale, 20 minutes south-west of Ballarat, relocated to another clinic in town last week, leaving residents without a local doctor.

Ballarat Community Health chief executive Sean Duffy said the decision was made to close the Smythesdale GP clinic after a review of medical services and an inability to hire a second doctor.

While the conversation about ways to address the regional GP shortage continues nationwide, Ballarat doctor Mark Yates said there should be a greater focus on the role of specialists.

Dr Yates said general practitioners were left unsupported and “vulnerable” without specialists in their regions.

“What concerns me most is that 50 per cent of general practitioners are, and we are lucky to have them, coming from overseas-trained environments where they have to work in the country.

“We do not have the specialists that actually make general practice a viable and invigorating and interesting practice.”

Dr Yates said the concept was not “popular” among his colleagues, but suggested specialists setting up in areas that were already flooded with experts in their field should not be able to access Medicare rebates.

He said a new system was needed to incentivise specialists moving to regional areas.

“The question I think we have to ask ourselves as a community is if you have got 50 cardiologists within 5km of where you live, do you want your taxes to pay for the 51st to put up their shingle?” he said.

“There is no driver in the system to make that happen.”

Bad news for Smythesdale

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