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Wallan doctor shortage: Rob Mitchell asks senate committee to investigate

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A GENERAL practitioner shortage in Wallan could come under the microscope of an Australian senate committee if Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell has his way.

Mr Mitchell last week called on a senate committee investigating a national shortage of doctors in outer metropolitan and regional areas to examine Wallan’s situation and hear from local residents.

Mr Mitchell wrote to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in May last year to inform him of what he described as a ‘growing issue’ of doctor shortages in Wallan, shortly before the town was reclassified from a regional to a metropolitan area.

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As a result Wallan lost its status as a GP distribution priority area, DPA, which gave local practices greater access to doctors subject to location restrictions, such as international medical graduates and Australian doctors participating in the Bonded Medical Programs.

Mr Mitchell said the shortage had become more acute in the past 12 months.

“In 2022 the problem is even worse. People, even with serious concerns cannot see a GP,” he said.

“The Liberal government has created this mess, leaving our community high and dry and has steadfastly refused to acknowledge and address the situation.

“Wallan is being forced to compete with Melbourne to attract new doctors. There is no extra funding or incentive for them to come here.”

Mr Mitchell said he lobbied for a senate inquiry into the provision of GPs to outer metropolitan and rural areas before it was established in August last year.

“I am now calling on the senate committee to meet local Wallan GPs and really hear about the issues they are facing,” he said.

“Wallan is the area most severely hit as for the last year has been classified as a Monash Medical Model, MMM1, area, which places us in a metropolitan catchment and has also lost its DPA classification.

“This has severely impacted GP availability as overseas doctors undergoing their GP training cannot do so in a non-DPA area. They are restricted by a 10 year moratorium to be in a certain [non-metro] location.”

Mr Mitchell described Wallan as an ‘island’, surrounded by other health service communities classified as DPA or rural.

He called on the senate committee to investigate why Wallan had been left stranded as a non-DPA area.

“I am aware of three Wallan clinics which have closed their books to new patients,” he said.

“People cannot get appointments to renew prescriptions and seniors cannot get referrals to specialists. How do parents care for sick children when you need to book a week in advance, before a child is even sick, to get seen by a GP?

“We want to bring our local medical professionals together to meet with the senate committee and contribute to tangible discussions that help solve this problem and provide the people of Wallan with access to the healthcare they deserve.”

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