“There are no GPs in my town, the nearest is 70km away.”
“Our previous clinic closed and it took six months to find a new GP clinic that would accept new patients. My family now has three different clinics between us but we still do not have access to a regular doctor because they keep leaving town.”
“The last doctor I was seeing left the nearest town, now there are none taking new patients so I see locums in a town further away.”
These are just some of the stories that close to 2000 Mallee residents have shared regarding the healthcare crisis in the regions.
Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health and Member for Mallee Anne Webster said the above stories and many more collected as part of her survey examining healthcare access in regional areas.
“Some of the responses can only be described as harrowing,” Dr Webster said.
“We are at crisis point, and I know from speaking to my colleagues around Australia that this is not a Mallee-specific issue.”
In response to the regional healthcare crisis, Dr Webster is hosting the first Regional Health Workforce Summit in Mildura on March 1-2.
The Summit, facilitated by former Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth, will bring peak health bodies to Mildura to hear from healthcare workers on the front line.
“We need grassroots solutions to develop policy to bring real solutions that improve health access and equity across regional Australia,” Dr Webster said.
“We do not need a top-down approach, it will take collaboration to find ways to fix our broken healthcare system.”
National Rural Health Commissioner Ruth Stewart will be the keynote speaker at a dinner as part of the Summit, with the heads of peak bodies such as the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Australian Medical Association, Australian College of Nursing and the National Rural Health Alliance to attend.
“Mildura is uniquely placed in a Tri-State-Area and with the airport for convenience I am glad to have been able to draw peak bodies and health professionals from all over the country to attend the Summit,” Dr Webster said.
Dr Webster’s “What is your experience of healthcare in your town?” survey is open until February 17 and can be completed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3G2SGMZ.