A PETITION demanding the federal government overhaul incentives for regional GPs has been launched after the closure of a Montville medical practice left the town without a doctor.
Launched yesterday, March 2, the petition calls on the federal government to amend rules which classify Montville as a regional centre thereby limiting the incentives medical practices can offer to potential GP recruits.
It follows the closure of Ochre Medical Centre Montville, which closed in January citing severe staff shortages.
“The Montville community is in desperate need of a doctor and calls on the Federal Government to do more to ensure a sustainable health service for the town,” the petition states.
“We … call upon the House of Representatives to improve rural and regional incentives to address GP shortages in the Montville community.”
Federal member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace, said it was devastating for the town, which is classified as regional while the larger but “rural-classified” neighbouring town of Maleny receives greater support.
“The Montville community needs a doctor… the State and Federal Governments have the levers to pull to give Australian rural and regional communities the health services they deserve,” Mr Wallace said.
“The pressure on medical centres is multi-faceted and nationwide due to several reasons including rising costs of running a practice and a skilled workforce shortage.
“This is on top of the Labor Government changing the Distribution Priority Areas for overseas trained doctors… which has placed greater strains upon existing primary health care systems in towns like Montville.”
Montville Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Natalie Lindner urged the federal government to review Montville’s rating as a regional town, otherwise it would continue to suffer the consequences.
“People are feeling as though they’ve been let down, this is an essential service for our community and it’s something that needs to be thriving which it has been in the past,” she said.
“It’s really disappointing to see the elder members of our community feeling almost abandoned at a time where they need their most support.
“It’s definitely something that we need in our community, not only for the older population also for school’s families.”
Mr Wallace said he would be taking the petition to Federal Minister for Health Mark Butler.
Frank Laver who had been seeing the same doctor at Ochre Medical Centre Montville for 22 years said the closure deeply impacts the community.
“It takes half a day to go to Maleny doctors, with travel times on damaged roads and then the wait on a doctor once you get there is absurd, we still go there because we have no other choice and we have to find transport to get there which in itself is difficult,” he said.
“I think it’s urgent, it’s past the urgent stage, it was urgent 12 months ago when things first started dwindling down, there’s so much uncertainty.
“There are so many people that have lived here for so long that deserve better and that’s what it’s come down to, how people are affected by this.”
Montville’s population is made up of more than 50% of people over the age of 55, which raises further concerns for Federal MP for Fisher Andrew Wallace.
The Ochre Medical Centre Montville have reassured residents that the closure is not permanent, and they were working on recruiting more staff to reopen the centre.