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27 August, 2021

Have your say on doctor shortages

JAMES Cook University is calling upon the government to increase funding allowing them to take on an additional 80 medical students each year.

By Peter McCullagh

James Cook University as an impeccable record in training doctors who go on to make a significant contribution to remote and regional medical services. In the past 15 years, approximately three-quarters of the JCU medical graduates have gone onto work regionally or remotely for period in excess of 12 months.

Currently there are more than 1000 graduate doctors from JCU still working in regional and remote Australia, testament to the training of the University and the quality and commitment of the graduate doctors.

More than ever, we need more doctors in the north. We need doctors in our hospitals as well as our GP clinics.

Anyone who has attempted to obtain an appointment to see a doctor in Cairns will attest to this fact.

This week we contact 15 doctor clinics on Cairns, a total of 8 appointments were available for that day and 22 appointments for the following day. Many GP Clinics were not accepting new patients due to a shortage of doctors.

It seems inconceivable that a city the size of Cairns with the number of GP practices and Clinics could have such a shortage of standard appointments to provide the basics of health care.

Unfortunately, when a patient cannot obtain a doctor’s appointment they are left with few options. They can present to the Hospital ED department and wait to see a doctor, they can call 13 HEALTH – the free Queensland government health advice phone line, or they can ignore their health issue and hope it goes away.

I guess the fourth option and perhaps one of the more commonly exercised option is we contact Doctor Google and seek basic health information online to various degrees of success.

The impact upon the health of our community as well as the long-term costs associated with a lack of qualified doctors make this issue a high priority for everyone.

Labour Senator Nita Green is a member of the recent convened Senate inquiry into doctor shortages in regional and rural Australia, after calling for the inquiry’s establishment in parliament earlier this month.

Submissions are open to businesses, organisations and most important members of the public who have experienced issues connected to the term of reference.

I would encourage private submissions from our readers. Medically we should be able to access our GPs when we have a health issue. Not being able to seek appropriate and timely medical attention should be an issue we raise with this inquiry.

We need more doctors here in the north. Our primary training university is calling for greater funding. We have a Senate inquiry receiving submissions regarding this issue. If we fail to act as individuals, we will continue to have a shortage of appointments and doctors.

It does not matter who is to blame for the shortage. What we need is bipartisan support across all levels of government with one clear mandate, we need greater medical services, and we need it now.

Take to opportunity to visit the online page for the inquiry and prepare your submission. More details can be found at

Peter McCullagh


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