DOCTORS will get a financial incentive to practice in Two Rocks from next month, but WAs Australian Medical Association (AMA) says they are needed elsewhere.
Pearce MHR Christian Porter said the suburb was among 450 “country towns” nationally that could be better off through the revamped GP Rural Incentives Program (GPRIP).
“The new GPRIP system will deliver a fairer system, redirecting money to attract more doctors to smaller towns that have genuine difficulty attracting and retaining doctors,” he said.
“Two Rocks will benefit from these changes as I know that GP shortages are an issue in the area.”
AMA (WA) president Michael Gannon said the problem of doctor distribution in WA was worst in remote and regional areas.
“Our main concerns regarding GP shortages are truly remote regions of WA, not areas on the edge of the wider Perth metropolitan area,” he said.
“Two Rocks is a short drive from Yanchep or Mindarie, where there are a number of excellent GP services available.
“(Mr) Porter is rightly concerned about his constituency; however the association believes that (GPRIP) should be reserved for areas of serious need, where it can take a plane ride to access the health care patients need.
“The Kimberley is the size of Sweden with long distances between towns.”
Mr Porter said under the previous system, doctors in large regional cities like Townsville and Cairns received incentives, but places like Two Rocks suffered.
“For decades, small regional towns in Pearce have struggled to attract enough doctors,” he said.
“I have spoken with many constituents who have had to drive as far as Joondalup just to see a doctor – this change will help tackle GP shortages in regional Pearce.”
According to the MP’s statement, the maximum incentive to work in a regional town of less than 5000 people will increase from $18,000 to $23,000 from July 1.
The changes would allow doctors to take leave from a rural practice for up to five years with no loss of incentive status on their return.
Doctors would also need to stay in a rural or regional area longer – two years up from the current six months – before they receive the incentive.
Dr Gannon said the program should be reserved for “genuinely needy areas” outside Perth.
“Every resident in WA is entitled to the very best health care,” he said.
“Many rural and regional areas face enormous challenges in attracting GPs, which in turn raises serious complications for rural residents trying to access health care.
“It has often been difficult to lure GPs to regional areas, and it is therefore vital that the Health Department and local government authorities ensure that they make working in rural and regional areas an attractive career choice.
“This means good housing, education and support services such as adequate provision of locums to make providing health care outside the metropolitan area an attractive career and lifestyle choice.”