GP clinics in Hervey Bay can now recruit overseas trained doctors and bonded medical practitioners after the region successfully campaigned to have its Distribution Priority Area (DPA) status reviewed.
Hervey Bay is now classified as DPA following an application to the Coalition Government’s “exceptional circumstances” review.
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Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said the successful application means medical practices in the Hervey Bay catchment – which includes Howard and Burrum Heads – have more opportunity to provide additional GPs.
“Having enough doctors is fundamental to any community and that’s even more true when you live or work in a regional place like Hervey Bay,” Mr Pitt said.
“For people of all ages, from babies to the elderly, being able to see a doctor when you have an illness or injury is important to your health and wellbeing.
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“This change gives local GP practices a larger pool of doctors to recruit from, which should make it easier for clinics to secure more doctors for Hervey Bay.
“The DPA classification identifies regions where people find it harder to see a doctor, based on the needs of the community.
“Although the classification is updated each year, my office has been contacted about delays in getting in to see a GP and medical practices have faced difficulties in recruiting doctors to the area.”
Mr Pitt said while the DPA classification does not guarantee a doctor, it allows medical practices in DPA catchments to recruit doctors subject to location restrictions, such as those who trained overseas.
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Students who have accepted a Commonwealth Supported Place in an Australian medical course in return for a commitment to work in a regional, rural and remote area at the end of their studies must also work in a DPA.
Federal Regional Health Minister, Dr David Gillespie said he set up the review process to ensure that an area’s DPA status was based on contemporaneous information, supported vulnerable patient cohorts and was responsive to significant workforce and population changes.
The exceptional circumstances review applications were considered by an independent working group, which made recommendations to Minister Gillespie.
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As well as changes to the health workforce or services, the review considers demographics, and more up to date data which was not available at the time of the previous DPA update.
The DPA indicator has been in place for three years, helping prioritise access to doctors for underserviced rural areas. The Bundaberg region has had DPA status since 2019.
It is one of many Australian Government initiatives to address the maldistribution of the medical workforce and encourage doctors under location restrictions to work in regional, rural and remote communities.
Press release issued by the Office of Keith Pitt, January 2022.
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