Parliament – GP shortage

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Affordable and accessible health care has always been one of my most important missions here as a member of parliament. But it’s also one of the most important issues to people in my electorate. Whether it’s hospital care, specialist care or GPs, residents in the southern suburbs of Adelaide want and deserve better access to these services in a timely manner. At the moment there’s a GP shortage in our community that’s preventing many residents from accessing local doctors. The reason for this is the ridiculous decisions made by the Department of Health.

The Department of Health has recognised multiple suburbs in my electorate in the south as areas of workforce shortage. It has classified them as priority areas. However, they are denying clinics the ability to access government programs which they need to hire GPs. These clinics are desperate to access the Practice Experience Program, but due to an arbitrarily and bureaucratically decided line on a map they’re not able to. To be specific: these clinics have been classified under Modified Monash Model 1, despite being priority areas. They need the GPs but they can’t get the GPs because of the decisions made by this government.

It is absolutely ridiculous that clinics which sit an area which has been recognised by the department as having a workforce shortage cannot access the programs which are designed to help them. The flow-on effects of these decisions have consequences. Of course it’s created local doctor shortages and huge waiting times. One GP clinic is forced to close at 12:30 each day because they can’t recruit enough GPs to justify a full day of practice. This clinic has a wait time of seven to 10 days for new patients, and in January it had a waitlist of over 20 people. Another GP clinic told me that they have to cap their cancellation list at 15 people per day and tell anyone else to try another clinic. This puts extreme pressure on nearby clinics as they try to meet the health demands of our local community. One clinic has 11 doctors available each day and still has 10-day waitlists for new clients.

Support needs to be given to these places. If the Department of Health recognises an area of workforce shortage—if they recognise there’s a problem—then they should provide these clinics and GP practices with the resources that they need. Waiting to see a GP can often make health problems become worse. When people are waiting so long it does not allow for GPs to look at early intervention or prevention. It’s time that this ridiculous situation, this bureaucratic nightmare, was addressed so that people in the southern suburbs of Adelaide can get the primary health care they deserve.

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