Foreign GPs the only option left for NQ dire doctor shortage

Aug 11, 2021

Foreign GPs the only option left for NQ dire doctor shortage

Aug 11, 2021

QUEENSLAND has no choice but to follow Western Australia’s model and bring in foreign doctors to address the dire doctor shortage in countless communities across the State, Kennedy MP, Bob Katter, has said.

Mr Katter said it was unfortunate that regional Australia had been backed into a corner and the only viable option now is to bring in foreign workers like Western Australia has done in bringing 209 doctors from the UK and Ireland to take up the slack in their regional centres.

“There are GPs in their late 60s and early 70s in North Queensland working 60 and 70 hour weeks because they don’t want to let down their community. They have no choice but to keep on working.

“Two of these people went to Canberra along with another, all from major private practices in North Queensland, who met with the Head of the Department and the Minister for Health, and one of their major advocacies was foreign doctors.

“For when you have senior medical practitioners from North Queensland flying to Canberra, and the Head of the Health Department and the Minister meeting with them, clearly there is a problem.”

Mr Katter said the rural doctor shortage resulted from the closure of the hospital outpatients, exhaustive university studies, bureaucratisation of the Department of Health, and a lack of graduates prepared to move to the regions.

“The tragedy that I have had to watch in my lifetime was once the pride of Queensland; 24 hours a day, every day of the year, you could walk into a hospital outpatient, get medical treatment for no cost. Now, you can’t.

“Joh Bjelke-Petersen was forced eventually by his Liberal partners to go onto the national scheme. The hospital funding which had come from the monopoly of lotteries owned by the Queensland Government, which was a major funder of public health, was privatised by the incoming and successive Labor Governments.

“In addition, the incredible bureaucratisation of the Department of Health under the likes of Jeannette Young has led to these closures. The then Queensland Australian Medical Association (AMA) President quoted, ‘Where there had been seven hands-on medical workers for every one bureaucrat, now there are two for one.’

“The extraordinary explosion of the Jeannette Youngs of this world into medicine, replacing the hands on nurses and doctors and wardsmen has reached hiatus, and even the magnificent work done in opening four new medical schools in Queensland has failed to overcome the desperate shortage.

“So whilst I hate to be treating the symptoms by going to the WA solution, there is no alternative but to move to that in the interim and to remove half the bureaucrats into more useful areas of the public service. Heaven only knows we are desperately short of road workers.

“Many doctors are young and idealistic and there is a great and exciting future for them, not only in coastal North Queensland, but the towns and remote areas of North Queensland. But there is no real program to put them there as there once was.

“As with most public servants, in order to get a promotion you had to have western service on your resume. Now it works the other way. “And the irony in all of this is that three of the great leadership titans of inland Queensland were all local doctors. The Highway into Cloncurry is Dr Harvey Sutton Drive, into Charleville there is a big statue dedicated to Dr Louis Ariotti and I am sure that ultimately there will be some landmark for Dr Tom Murphy of Longreach.

“One thing is for certain, we can’t keep our ‘should be retired’ GPs working 70 hour weeks. And we can’t keep sitting by while GP Practices close in places like Innisfail and Mission Beach. We need doctors and we need them now.”