Ballarat does not have a doctor shortage, according to the Australian Department of Health.
A department spokesperson told The Courier Ballarat and surrounds show a substantial improvement with growth in general practice services of 24.3 per cent in Ballarat, compared with 20.2 per cent nationally.
The Rural Workforce Agency Victoria recently completed a Health Workforce Needs Assessment which did not identify Ballarat as a priority town for support in 2019.
"Should circumstances change in Ballarat, the RWAV would support practices with recruitment and retention activities," the spokesperson said.
This response comes after Opposition Health Minister and Ballarat Federal MP Catherine King raised concerns about access to healthcare in Ballarat in a letter to Health Minister Greg Hunt last month and reports of hundreds of patients being turned away from a walk-in medical clinic in January.
The issues we are facing in Ballarat are issues being faced everywhere in rural and regional Australia.Lynne McLennan, UFS
Meanwhile, health care leaders have shared their struggle to recruit appropriately qualified general practitioners.
Many patients have shared their concerns general practice services will not be able to keep up with the city's potentially rapid growth.
UFS chief executive Lynne McLennan said more incentives needed to be implemented to attract medical professionals to regional and rural Victoria.
"The issues we are facing in Ballarat are issues being faced everywhere in rural and regional Australia," she said.
"They are issues related to the small number of medical graduates who choose to go into general practice because specialist medicine is much more financially attractive and attractive for other reasons as well. Then only a small percentage of those who do choose general practice are looking to work in rural and regional Australia."
Ballarat is not classified as a District of Workforce Shortage, meaning overseas-trained doctors cannot be employed to address workforce shortages.
Ms McLennan said UFS was still looking for a general practitioner to replace a doctor who retired in December after the position had been advertised for more than 12 months.
"It is difficult to find a local Australian trained doctor to replace a retiring doctor. But it doesn't mean at the moment Ballarat is particularly short of general practitioners because it is not," she said.
"There are much more difficult areas to recruit to than for Ballarat."
When asked about the federal government's commitment to attract more doctors to regional and rural areas, a Department of Health spokesperson said the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria received $4.7 million in 2018-19 to deliver the Rural Health Workforce Support Activity over five years.
The agency works to ensure rural Australia is served by a skilled, well-supported health workforce, a Department of Health spokesperson said.
The spokesperson outlined other measures to address medical workforce shortage issues including the Stronger Rural Health Strategy and the More Doctors for Rural Australia program that launched in January.
We need more financial incentives for qualified doctors to practice in rural and regional Australia.Lynne McLennan, UFS
The program provides opportunities for doctors to work and train in regional, rural and remote communities by improving access to education, training and support in these areas.
Ms McLennan said long-term solutions were needed rather than the current 'stop-gap' measures to address workforce shortages.
"We need to have Australian trained general practitioners that are committed to rural practice. The federal government has some incentives around rural practice but I don't believe they are enough," she said.
"We need more financial incentives for qualified doctors to practice in rural and regional Australia."