The Skipton community is rallying around much-loved GP Dr Mohammed Al Naima who has been locked out of the hospital and medical clinic amid a dispute over his Medicare provider number.
Within hours of receiving the news on Tuesday that Dr Al Naima was not allowed to practice, more than 100 locals had pledged to attend a rally of support outside the Skipton hospital that afternoon.
The rally was cancelled after the Beaufort and Skipton Health Service board agreed to meet with community representatives on Wednesday, but that meeting was postponed until next week, much to the disappointment of those leading the charge for him to stay.
The issue is said to relate to expiration of Dr Al Naima’s Medicare provider number, but authorities recently extended his provider approval until December 2019.
On Wednesday the hospital said the doctor’s contract had not been terminated and it was awaiting confirmation of the provider number.
He’s been the best doctor for our community … going above and beyond the role and supporting the town.A concerned Skipton resident
Dr Al Naima has worked at Beaufort and Skipton Health Service for more than three years and was reportedly so keen to stay he offered to sign a 10-year contract.
“What we are concerned about as a community is that since August 9, when Mohammed was suspended, we haven’t had any access to a doctor,” said community spokesman Nick Shady.
“As a community we are frustrated and really concerned. People don’t understand why and … your relationship with your doctor is a very personal thing.
“There are country towns crying out for doctors, and we’ve got a doctor who wants to stay and barriers have been placed in the way.”
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A statement from the hospital board said Dr Al Naima’s contract had not been terminated.
“Dr Al Naima has not been able to legally practice as there have been problems with the status of his Medicare Provider number. In Australia, a GP cannot practice without a current number, nor can patients claim Medicare benefits,” the statement read.
“The Health Service is committed to providing the best possible services for its community and is listening to their concerns.”
The board has asked the Department of Health and Human Services for an independent reviewer to help work through these issues, and has appointed a locum doctor to provide primary care before a new GP joins the practice next month.
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