How to get Gladstone back as GP priority area
The battle continues for the Gladstone region to be reinstated as a “Distribution Priority Area” for doctors, while many residents are forced to continue to wait for appointments.
Doctors, allied health staff, nurses and pharmacy workers have all told The Observer the availability of GP’s and health services in the region has declined since 2015.
A significant contributing factor to this decline was when Gladstone was no longer classified as a Distribution Priority Area (DPA) in July 2019.
The Federal Health Department DPA classification enables doctors who have trained overseas, or those who haven’t worked in Australia for 10 years, to be employed in an area.
In July 2020, a Federal Health Department spokeswoman said the status of the Gladstone region was altered, but not reclassified as a DPA.
“Under the most recent DPA update on 1 July 2020, Gladstone gained DPA status for participants of the Bonded Medical Programs, meaning that the area is able to recruit from a larger pool of doctors, including Australian Bonded doctors, compared to other towns that do not have the same classification.
“Gladstone remained non-DPA for International Medical Graduates as they were assessed as receiving adequate services for the needs of the community when compared to the Modified Monash Model MM 2 benchmark of GP services.
“The 2020 DPA update was determined using the latest available Medicare Benefit Schedule billing and estimated residential population data.”
But there is hope GP services in the region will return to the same levels as previously experienced.
“The next update is scheduled for 1 July 2021, and will account for changes in communities, including changing GP numbers, the population, or the age, gender or socio-economic groupings,” the Federal Health spokeswoman said.
“The government acknowledges the populations of the GP catchments are not static and an annual update allows for any significant changes to the needs of a community to be captured. “This ensures the DPA will accurately distribute restricted GPs to the communities of greatest need and will take into account the changes that occur within a community from year to year.”
While GPs and other medical workers continue to lobby bodies including Health Workforce Queensland, Central Queensland, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast Primary Health Network and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, there are things you can do to help initiate the reclassification of Gladstone as a DPA.
Email the Central Queensland, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast Primary Health Network, or call them on 4921 7777, or the Federal Health Department to have your voice heard.