Queensland councils want a focus on attracting more doctors to regional areas. 

Councils are coming together to urge the State and Federal governments to address doctor shortages and the lack of GP health services in rural and regional areas. 

Flinders Shire Mayor Jane McNamara says rural and regional councils have endured serious difficulties in recruiting doctors for their local communities.

Cr McNamara says COVID-19 restrictions have generated greater interstate and intrastate travel, with regional centres experiencing increased tourist numbers and contractor visits, which places further pressure on local health services.

Flinders Shire has a population of more than 1,500 residents but only one local GP available at any one time.

“If that GP is sick, there is not another local GP available in the shire for someone to have scripts renewed or receive any other local medical services they may require from a GP,” Cr McNamara says.

“This puts additional pressure on the public hospital at Hughenden, with the closest GP services being at Richmond or Charters Towers [if available] or Townsville which is more than four hours away.”

Cr McNamara said the State and Federal governments should consider incentive schemes to encourage recruitment of regional health service staff, particularly the relocation of GPs to regional and remote areas.

Consideration should also be given to reinstating reduced higher education fees (HECS/HELP) linked to years of service in rural and remote areas.

“The re-introduction of bonded scholarships such as the ‘rural and remote pathway’ streams for junior medical officers would be another helpful measure,” Cr McNamara said.

“There should also be guaranteed developmental opportunities for regional doctors as well as relocation incentive schemes for GPs that would lead to a sustainable and acceptable standard of regional health services, especially in rural and remote areas.”