THE demise of the family doctor in Ballarat means new residents to the city are struggling to find a replacement for their traditional general practioner.
The Courier yesterday contacted several private practices who confirmed their books were not open to new patients, or only open on a conditional basis.
This was despite a high number of enquiries they were receiving from the general public daily.
Ballarat and District Division of General Practice senior program co-ordinator Angela Aldred said although there were actually more doctors on the ground in Ballarat, there was a perceived shortage.
She suggested this was because many of the traditional style family practices had closed their books.
She said corporate-style practices, which had opened in their place, reflected the changing structure of the face of general practice.
“Every country town used to have a practice that had X number of doctors and the family and the kids of the kids used to go to that particular doctor,” she said.
“It’s becoming less and less of a model of general practice delivery.”
She said as a wave of older family doctors began retiring, a new generation of doctors were taking their place.
“They’re still establishing themselves,” she said.
“There’s been an increase in turnover of the doctors coming into the district and doctors leaving the district.
“You’re not seeing the same face when you go into a practice.”
Ms Aldred said the larger “corporate” practices that were growing in numbers in Ballarat offered a different style of medicine.
This was reflected often by involving bulk billing and no appointment structures.
She said while they were increasingly seen as the more viable model, the family doctor remained a popular concept.
Ms Aldred said in the past few years Ballarat had ceased to be a place of workplace shortage for doctors.
“We’ve actually increased the numbers of GPs that have come to the district but we still get this anecdotal feel that people cannot find a family doctor,” she said.
“There’s a gradual change in awareness in the way medical services are delivered that will need to come on board with time.”