I rise today to call on the government to support regional Australians by properly addressing regional GP shortages. The issues facing regional health services are nothing new but the shortage of GPs in regional areas is fast becoming a national crisis. One doctor referred to it as 'the brink of primary health collapse'. The only thing keeping GP clinics going in some of our local towns is the dedication and community spirit of doctors, nurses and staff. The pressure on these people is not healthy or fair.
I met with local GPs right across Eden-Monaro last week who told me that they were unable to deal with any succession planning as they moved towards retirement because, unfortunately, there is no one to replace them. I've had GPs email me their concerns over attracting and retaining doctors to the regions. These doctors are carrying the weight of communities on their shoulders and if they stop practising patients will be left with no alternative but to drive for hours for essential health care.
Part of the problem is the expenses and compliance requirements that make small GP clinics no longer viable. Big corporations are taking over GP clinics in the cities but, sadly, they're not interested in rural areas. We've already seen the decline of rural GP practices, meaning there is more pressure on remaining doctors in our local hospitals. Quite simply, the system is at breaking point. We need a plan to attract and keep GPs in our regional communities.