Members Statement - Rural Doctor Shortage

Rural general practitioners

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) (09:42:16) — I raise the concerns of the Kerang district community about the critical shortage of doctors in the town. Kerang and district have been well served over many years by some long‑serving doctors, like Dr Wood, Dr Keogh and Lindsay and Dianne Sherriff, but they have now all retired or moved on to other duties in their lives, including the Sherriffs, who are now working off the coast of Africa on the MV Africa Mercy hospital ship over there.

Both the Fitzroy Street Medical Clinic and the Kerang Medical Clinic are working hard to recruit new doctors but are finding it very difficult. The challenge for country towns is made more difficult by the fact that many potential doctors actually do not want to work as a visiting medical officer at their local hospital — being on call all hours of the day and night and weekends and being taken away from their existing practice. Country communities deserve good access to doctors, and what is taken for granted in the city is not the case in the country. It is time the Andrews government did more to help these communities to recruit doctors and make sure doctors stay in their towns.

Northern District Community Health has actually shown some initiative by recording a video of their CEO, Mandy Hutchinson, and various staff and community members singing a song about the need for doctors in Kerang. It is a great idea and has had nearly 13 000 views. What they need now to back up that video is support from the Andrews government to make sure that there are packages in place that incentivise doctors to go to country towns to deliver the services that are so important for those towns — services that people in Melbourne take for granted.

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