GP system in poor health as Rockingham clinics struggle to attract new doctors to region

Stuart HortonSound Telegraph
A “nightmare of diabolical proportions” is on the horizon for people wanting to see a doctor in the Rockingham and Kwinana region, according to one Rockingham GP.
Camera IconA “nightmare of diabolical proportions” is on the horizon for people wanting to see a doctor in the Rockingham and Kwinana region, according to one Rockingham GP. Credit: Stock image

A “nightmare of diabolical proportions” is on the horizon for people wanting to see a doctor in the Rockingham and Kwinana region, according to one Rockingham GP.

Martin Samy of Samy Medical Practice said recent changes to the health workforce distribution priority area classification system would cause a “terrible shortage” of doctors in the coming months.

On July 1, the Districts of Workforce Shortage Assessment Areas for GPs and Bonded Doctors, which determined the placing of medical practitioners in communities of greatest need, was replaced by the Modified Monash Model.

This new model takes into account population, town size, and access to specialists as well as distance to a capital city to determine whether an area has a shortage of doctors, and has seen Rockingham and Kwinana reclassified.

However, Dr Samy believes the changes will have a negative effect in the region, which used to be recognised as an area of shortage and allowed practices to employ non-vocational registered GPs from overseas, but will now be classified as an area of lowest need.

This, coupled with recent reductions to Medicare rates for non-VR GPs, will make it harder for medical centres to attract GPs according to Dr Samy.

“We have two doctors and they are fully booked every day. Our principal doctor is booked out a week in advance and we’ve removed her name from online booking because we can’t take new patients,” he said.

“I’ve had two doctors advertisements up online, one for the last three months and one for the last two months, and I’m not joking, I have not had a single expression of interest. Now non-VR doctors are paid less they won’t come here. Why should a doctor from overseas earn 40 per cent less? These changes discourage non-VR doctors from coming.

“Fingers crossed that will be changed but I don’t think so. We don’t know what to do. I think there’s going to be a terrible shortage in the next few months and this time next year I think there will be lots of whingeing and stressing.”

The Sound Telegraph has been in contact with other practices in the area who said they also faced the same issues and were equally worried about the public’s future access to doctors.

According to the Department of Health, the model will be fixed for three years to allow areas with doctor shortages to stabilise and will ensure a more appropriately distributed health workforce to meet community needs.

The Department will establish an advisory group later in the year to consider whether the new methodology is working.

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