Federal Member for Ballarat and Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King is urging the federal government to take action to improve access to general practitioners in Ballarat.
The call follows The Courier’s reports of a shortage of general practitioners that is increasing pressure on walk-in clinics and the Ballarat Base Hospital emergency department and making patients wait up to two weeks for an appointment with their regular doctor.
Ms King wrote to Minister for Health Greg Hunt on Saturday to ‘request an urgent update on any action the Commonwealth is taking to improve access to general practice in the Ballarat region, and to strongly urge further action’.
“Ballarat is not classified by the Commonwealth as a District of Workforce Shortage, meaning that overseas-trained doctors cannot be employed to address workforce shortages,” she wrote.
“However, as in other regional areas, the DWS system does not fully account for local factors such as scarce service provision in outlying areas and the pressure this places on practices in central Ballarat.”
Ballarat is not classified by the Commonwealth as a District of Workforce Shortage, meaning that overseas-trained doctors cannot be employed to address workforce shortages.Catherine King MP
The Department of Health told The Courier on January 13 it had requested the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria investigate any issues with general practitioners in Ballarat through a Health Workforce Needs Assessment.
Ms King asked Mr Hunt for an update on the agency’s assessment, including whether it extends, or could extend, to Ballarat’s DWS status.
“I also ask whether the Commonwealth is taking any other action to improve access to general practice in the Ballarat region, including through the Western Victoria Primary Health Network – another organisation funded by the Commonwealth to identify and address local service gaps,” Ms King wrote in the letter.
Ms King said conversations with hundreds of constituents made it clear people in this region were struggling to see general practitioners, with limited availability of appointments and rising costs.
Meanwhile, Victorian Labor member for Buninyong Michaela Settle said in a statement to The Courier she was looking forward to seeing the new Ballarat Base Hospital take shape.
“As a local MP for the Ballarat area and someone who spent last Friday evening in Ballarat Base’s Emergency Ward after an incident involving my son and a wayward skateboard, I’m pleased that locals will get new health facilities and look forward to watching the new Ballarat Base Hospital take shape,” she said.
“Coming from a background in community health it has always been my position to seek improved outcomes for patients. As the Member for Buninyong I will continue to advocate for the best health services possible for the growing population in the Ballarat region.”
The Victorian Budget 2018/19 included $461.6 million to completely rebuild and redevelop Ballarat Base Hospital.
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