BEAUFORT'S hospital-based general practitioners will move into a private practice early next year.
The change, a decision of doctors Pushpa Ravindranayagam and Phil Kyaw, is made with the blessing of Beaufort and Skipton Health Services in a joint statement this week.
Beaufort and Skipton Health Services chief executive officer Meryn Pease said there should be little difference for the region's patients, aside from appointments now in the practice clinic rather than the hospital.
Ms Pease sought to allay community concerns about the move, telling The Courier there was opportunity for the health service to better focus on expanding allied health offerings in partnership with the new Beaufort Family Practice.
Both doctors remain contracted as visiting medical officers to the health service, meaning they can still be on-call and available for consultation to patients admitted to the hospital and those residing in the aged care home.
Rural mental health advocate Nick Shady, who also sits on the Beaufort and Skipton Health Foundation board, called on governments to do more to support rural and regional doctors.
When you're quite distant, there are feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.Nick Shady, mental health advocate
Mr Shady has a family member in the Skipton nursing home was concerned about doctor sustainability, particularly after the community rallied hard to keep its general practitioner Mohammed Al Naima last year. Dr Naima had been locked out of practising in the Skipton hospital and clinic amid a dispute on his Medicare provider number.
"(Beaufort GPs) are moving from the hospital now...the worry is, going forward, we'll end up losing our doctor in Skipton - we haven't had any long term," Mr Shady said.
"There is a systematic problem in all country towns and health services. Volunteers do their best. Doctors might be happy but the worry is costs to keep them. What are the other options?"
Mr Shady said many regional people did not like having to constantly re-tell their stories or medical history to new doctors, let alone having to also travel.
He cited the case of Skipton farmer Al Gabb, who told his story before the Mental Health Royal Commission sitting in Maryborough in July. Mr Gabb estimated direct costs for his mental health care, a mix of public and private services, to have tallied about $40,000. But, like many farmers there was the stress of travel and time off work to access specialist treatment in Melbourne.
Mr Shady said this was a similar story for farmers in the district needing to travel for other medical care in Ballarat or Melbourne.
"When you're quite distant, there are feelings of helplessness and hopelessness," Mr Shady said.
"Unless you speak out for them, most of the people won't speak up for themselves."
In Beaufort, Ms Pease said the health service had committed to a working partnership with Beaufort Family Practice in building stronger health programs for the community.
Dr Ravindranayagam and Dr Kyaw will start consultations in their new practice rooms from February 3. The practice will start taking appointments from January 16 and Beaufort and Skipton Health Service will also be directing patients to the new clinic from this date.
Beaufort Family Practice will open on Neill Street, along the Western Highway, in the former National Australia Bank site.
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