When you’re sick and you need a doctor, it should not be a herculean task to get an appointment.
But across Mallee, it often is.
Under the Coalition Government, a suite of measures was implemented to target regional disadvantage. Measures I advocated for. These included funding 80 new Commonwealth Supported Places – a scheme that brings more student doctors to the bush, slashing HECS debt for doctors and nurse practitioners who work regionally, making telehealth permanent which reduced GP wait times, and extra funding for rural health training.
We took ground to improve the health outcomes for regional patients.
But recent changes to health policy by the new Labor Governments are cause for concern.
In an effort to reduce the burden on our hospital system, Labor have promised 50 urgent care clinics across Australia, which is a laudable idea. However, I have raised the question whether any of these clinics will be in Mallee. At this stage, they have been allocated to Labor seats.
We need the government to look further afield than Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong – to places like Edenhope, Maryborough or Horsham where the need for medical support is dire. Mallee makes up almost a third of the state of Victoria. Will they give us any at all?
To see tangible change for our region, it will take a targeted and deliberate approach from the government. Alarmingly, we’ve seen the opposite in the last month when the new Minister for Health announced an expansion of Distributed Priority Areas classifications for International and Bonded doctors.
What this will mean is that outer urban areas such as Frankston and Ballarat will now compete with Ouyen, Robinvale or Mildura.
Doctor shortages in regional centres will not be aided by this policy announcement. Labor are bleeding our resources to the urban centres. This is not a solution at all. It threatens to make the problem worse.
This new government is showing a blatant disregard for those living outside capital cities. Regional Australians deserve better.