General News

22 May, 2023

Desperate plea for GPs

State petition calls for permanent doctors on the Cassowary Coast

By Nick Dalton

Cardwell resident Gabi Plumm has started a petition for more doctors in the town and surrounding communities. Picture: Supplied
Cardwell resident Gabi Plumm has started a petition for more doctors in the town and surrounding communities. Picture: Supplied

SMALL Cassowary Coast towns are in a desperate fight to keep and attract general practitioners to their communities. In dire straits are Mission Beach (no doctor), Cardwell, Tully and Ingham. Cardwell resident Gabi Plumm has started a petition which has 1000 signatures with the aim of 10,000, calling on the Queensland Government to intervene. 

“The petition of residents of the State of Queensland draws to the attention of the House the urgent need for full-time doctors in rural medical practices including but not limited to Cardwell, Ingham, Tully and Mission Beach,” she said. 

“The dearth of available medical practitioners has had dire complications for the residents of these rural towns specifically those of older age. 

“Medical practitioners are needed more in rural towns to minimise the travel distance for the elderly. 

“As I live in Cardwell, a town where a large majority of residents are over 60 years of age, I have seen how difficult it is for people get access to a doctor in order to: get a repeat prescription, get a referral to a specialist, or simply consult a medical professional when one’s health is failing,” she said. 

“We are sent to Tully Hospital emergency, which is fine if one can drive or if one has a friend to drive. This is not the case for many people, and we have no taxis or home visits. 

“Our family practice in Cardwell has suffered from rapidly rising costs, major difficulties in employing doctors and nurses, with locums, when identified, charging vast sums just to relocate to this area.” 

Ms Plumm said there were long waiting times, no doctor at Mission Beach, a community of 3500 and three or four doctors in Ingham with a population of 4000-plus. 

State Member for Hinchinbrook and Katter’s Australian Party deputy leader Nick Dametto has sponsored the petition and said his electorate had the highest aging population per capita compared to anywhere else in Queensland. 

“It’s a fact that many health conditions are more common as people age, so you could say that the elderly are the higher users of our health services. Despite this, we still have the regional and rural areas with aging populations not getting the adequate health care they deserve,” he said. 

Cardwell Family Practice coowner and registered nurse Julie McKay said the situation was “dire” with the business relying on locums and never knowing when or if the next arrive. 

“The medical professions are not being heard, no-one is talking to us. We need the community to help us so we can help them,” she said A Cassowary Coast Regional Council spokeswoman said the issue was a priority in the council’s Advocacy Plan 2023 - Collaborative and Place Based Primary Health Care Services. 

She said the council put forward a motion about the situation at the Local Government Association of Queensland conference in 2022 which was incorporated into the LGAQ 2023 Advocacy Action Plan. 

The spokeswoman said deputations led by Mayor Nolan met Health Minister Yvette D’Ath last week when the regional sitting of parliament took place. 

Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) chief executive officer Robin Whyte said for the past three years, NQPHN, in partnership with Health Workforce Queensland, had funded relocation packages to address allied health professional shortages, including general practitioners (GPs), with further incentives to attract doctors in critical areas, including Tully and Mission Beach. 

“As a result of this funding, the Tully practice has been able to attract at least one new GP to service Tully and Mission Beach (given the closure of the practice in Mission Beach),” she said. 

Ms Whyte said NQPHN with Health Workforce, the University of Queensland and Mater Research Institute was offering a Virtual Integrated Practice model across the North Queensland region and Tully, Ingham and Cardwell had submitted expressions of interest. Paper petitions are available throughout the Cassowary Coast. 

To sign the e-petition, visit the Queensland Parliament website.


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