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What’s in it for Canberra? A GP Super Clinic!

By emd 11 August 2010 24

ALP announcements today (courtesy of ABC News) include some good news for Canberrans who are sick of having to wait a week (or more) to see a GP who doesn’t even bulk bill. They’re going to build a GP Super Clinic, providing after-hours bulk billed GP services to reduce the pressure on hospital emergency departments. There’s also a bucket of money for roads infrastructure that will somehow help reduce housing prices (don’t know how that works?).

Personally, I’d rather see the roads money spent on public transport infrastructure (light rail, anyone?), but VERY pleased to see that someone is ready to do something about the serious shortage of GP services in Canberra. We may be the nation’s capital, but the real people who really live here do need real doctors, just like in every other city.

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24 Responses to
What’s in it for Canberra? A GP Super Clinic!
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Mr Evil 5:41 pm 14 Aug 10

Just sit back and watch the Labor Govt stuff this one up too…. 🙁

housebound 3:02 pm 14 Aug 10

Sorry to come late to this, but agree with all those who say $15 million is ridiculous. And some of the alternative ideas are very good.

Belconnen already has two decent-sized one-stop shop clinics – Ginninderra practice and the West Belconnen Health Coop. One was built with private money and cost the government nothing more than grief over a tree (now dead); the other is a community-led initiative that cost the government less than $1 million in capital grants. Why not use a model that works and costs less?

justin heywood 3:40 pm 13 Aug 10

JumpingTurkey said :

…If they expanded the number of GP registrars in Canberra by increasing incentives for GPs in Canberra to take on more trainee doctors in their surgeries then there would be greater chance that they will stay on in Canberra…i.e. cost of offering each registar $10,000 each year, plus 12 free return flights per year plus taxi vouchers would be something like $15000 each year.

If you attracted say extra 40 registars each year (20 each from Sydney and Melbourne), then this would cost $600,000 a year. This would take a huge burden off GP shortage in Canberra, not to mention that 2 years later some of these registrars may decide to stay on.

….This would be a far more cost effective solution than spending $10 million on building a whopping big building for a super clinic.

Now THAT sounds like a plan.

JumpingTurkey 2:34 pm 13 Aug 10

Well, we have a system that ‘locks in’ overseas trained doctors (OTD) entering into general practice in Australia into ‘area of need’. Number of years varies but generally 10 years. There are several practices in Canberra that are able to employ these area of need doctors.
However there are a couple of issues with this:

a) while many OTDs are competent, many aren’t. The proportion of incompetent doctors is far higher for OTDs. This is due to the fact that their communication skills are problematic; and also many OTDs simply did not receive first class training; and many OTDs are also older and often trained as a specialist in a country that has no established system of general practice (e.g. in middle east or subcontinent where people just go straight to a specialist doctor). So you get a situation where you have inadequate doctors working in areas that need good doctors the most (e.g. in areas of existing doctor shortages where patients cannot get second opinions).

(b) This system is a bit inhumane. Forcing people stay in country towns, often away from their family in major cities for many years is a bit slack. But this may not be a problem in a large city like Canberra where the entire family can easily move here and enjoy the benefits of city living and education.

In terms of imposing geographic restrictions on provider numbers to even local graduates – this could work, and something similar to this is happening with rural students. For example students from rural regions can enter Med school with a lower mark provided that they sign a contract restricting them to practicing in rural regions for X number of years after they finish their medical training. In addition, med students can also receive scholarships to help them financially during their study, but in return they may have to sign a contract once again bonding them to rural practice for X number of years on graduation. Problem with these approaches is that often students are willing to sign such contracts, but they are often young and naive when they do so, so may not understanding the implications in what they are signing; and secondly they often change their minds while spending 6 years studying at a major city – they often get used to the lifestyle of a big city, and wish to remain in the city.

I think a far better solution is to have geographic limits on provider numbers, AND provide training in the actual area that you want them to practice. And this is why ANU getting a medical school is so vitally important. Local Canberra students who train at the ANU are likely to remain in Canberra.

Another solution to workforce shortage of GPs is to expand the number of GP registrars – doctors who have finished internship and residency in the hospitals and who are undergoing on the job training as GPs. If they expanded the number of GP registrars in Canberra by increasing incentives for GPs in Canberra to take on more trainee doctors in their surgeries then there would be greater chance that they will stay on in Canberra after their training. In order to do this you need to snatch GP registrars away from Sydney and Melbourne – and one way of doing this is by offering them incentives to come to Canberra for the duration of their training by offering them additional money, but perhaps more importantly I reckon offering them generous number of free flights each year so that they can easily visit their friends in the big cities.

i.e. cost of offering each registar $10,000 each year, plus 12 free return flights per year plus taxi vouchers would be something like $15000 each year. If you attracted say extra 40 registars each year (20 each from Sydney and Melbourne), then this would cost $600,000 a year. This would take a huge burden off GP shortage in Canberra, not to mention that 2 years later some of these registrars may decide to stay on.

This would be a far more cost effective solution than spending $10 million on building a whopping big building for a super clinic. All this would is to get GPs who are practicing in their private practice to sell their practice or pack away their gear and just move into this new building. How does this help anyone (but of course it helps the government in getting reelected)???

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