Bush doctor cut is ‘crazy’

A TAMWORTH general practitioner has called the federal budget scrapping of a program designed to attract more doctors to country areas “crazy”.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Ian Kamerman said the Prevocational General Practice Placement Program (PGPPP) was costly, but it provided valuable community exposure for junior doctors.

Dr Kamerman said the PGPPP attracted more doctors to rural practice and the scrapping of the program in the Federal Budget could undo gains that had been made in rural practice.

“We are producing a large number of medical graduates and as we produce more and more and hospitals become more efficient, they’re going to get less exposure to the community and they’re going to need to be placed in the community,” he said.

“Under the PGPPP, they got a whole variety of experiences and from participants, it’s been virtually universally high praise, because they get a great deal of experience from it.”

Dr Kamerman said it would also place more pressure on the states because junior doctors would be placed in hospitals, so state governments would have to pay their wages. “They’re not going to be placed in the community, but will be placed in hospitals, and it’s crazy – it’s ill-thought out,” he said.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia treasurers and NSW Rural Doctors Association secretary Dr Paul Mara said this would have a great impact on rural communities.

“As a longer term workforce strategy, it has proven more effective than moratoriums on overseas trained doctors and basic GP registrar schemes,” he said.

On the subject of the $7 co-payment, Dr Kamerman said it meant GPs would become burdened with more paperwork.

“At a time when the federal government is talking about the need to ensure doctors are spending their time treating patients and not filling out endless paperwork, last week’s Medicare co-payment announcement is ironically€in capital letters and underlined,” he said.

“There is a real danger that the introduction of co-payments will discourage more doctors from staying in rural practice, and place a further bureaucratic load on those doctors remaining in the bush.

“We urge the Federal Government to reconsider the Medicare co-payment proposal and keep the PGPPP.”

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