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‘This is a cry for help’: More GP clinics shutting down


Michelle Wisbey


23/05/2024 3:55:09 PM

Doctors are pleading with governments to ‘step up and step in’, as a GP shortage and skyrocketing costs causes to two Queensland practices to close their doors. 

'Sorry we're closed' sign in window.
Around 71% of GPs say they had experienced feelings of burnout.

Two Queensland medical centres have announced their closure, adding their names to an alarmingly long list of practices no longer able to survive amid an ‘extreme doctor shortage’.
 
This week, Bowen’s Herbert Street Family Medical Centre and the Clermont Country Practice both revealed plans to close their doors within a matter of months.
 
Director of the Bowen clinic Jean Andersen says the centre has done everything possible to remain open but, after 14 years of practice, it ‘simply cannot afford to pay for [locum] GPs anymore’.
 
‘We tried, and tried, and tried to keep the doors open, but everyone’s still in shock and I’m still processing everything,’ she told newsGP.
 
‘My biggest concern is continuity of care for our patients … our community needs primary healthcare and we’re not the only community that’s facing this and having these challenges.
 
‘We’ve developed an action plan of what we need to do to make sure we’re still looking after our patients right up to the closure and afterwards by referring them on.’
 
Ms Andersen said with around 200 GP clinics already closing across the country in the past year, the situation is only getting worse.
 
She said her practice’s closure will not only impact her patients, many who are already vulnerable, but it will put extreme pressure on health services in the area.
 
Ms Andersen now fears more closures are on the way right across Australia if urgent and meaningful funding is not made available.
 
‘There’s just a national shortage of GPs and it’s a crisis, especially for our remote communities,’ she said.
 
‘We need to make sure there’s that continuity of care in primary healthcare because we do have different complexities and severity of conditions and illnesses.
 
‘This is a cry for help and governments really need to step up and step in.’
 
Around 400 kilometers down the road at Clermont, Dr Sarah McLay is facing a similar situation.
 
This week, she announced ‘with a heavy heart’ her practice would also be closing – gradually lessening its opening days until it shuts completely in around six months.
 
‘The cost of living is going up, the viability of these clinics continues to be challenged, and to be honest, I just don’t see that changing in the immediate future,’ Dr McLay said in an emotional social media post.
 
‘The Government has plans, but they’re not telling us clearly what that will look like, and it’s very hard to sustain a business in the face of such uncertainty.
 
‘I’m swimming against a really strong current here and in an effort to provide a service, even though it’s so desperately needed, I’m actually really burning myself out and hurting my family.’
 
Last year, newsGP revealed at least 184 general practices had closed around Australia in just 12 months, with the rate of new openings falling short of making up the difference.
 
These closures continue to impact every state and territory and there are fears that, without significant change, this unfortunate trend will only continue.
 
At the same time, according to the latest RACGP Health of the Nation report, just 20% of surveyed GPs indicated they would recommend their profession to junior colleagues and 29% intend to retire in the next five years.
 
And the situation is becoming more dire each year, with 71% of GPs saying they had experienced feelings of burnout while overall job satisfaction plummeted to 66%.
 
For Dr McLay, this data rings true.

‘I am not going to lie, I’m actually really looking forward to having some time with my family and not living in this consulting room as I have for the last five years,’ she said.
 
‘I’m really desperately in need of this change, and I’m not entirely clear as to what the future will hold, but I’ll be spending the next six months exploring all the opportunities that are out there.’
 
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Dr Ramanpreet Kaur Gill   24/05/2024 7:42:06 AM

We need more rural GP to prevent burn out of the existing ones


Dr Jeanne Maree Carpenter   24/05/2024 7:51:45 AM

I closed my clinic in April 2023 due to my landlord wanting to double my rent. We had been open for 8 years but during COVID one older GP decided to retire and another one dropped from 3 days a week to 1.5. I was unable to recruit another GP and sadly had to make the very difficult decision to close.


Dr Tilmann Martin Rust   24/05/2024 8:20:48 AM

The RACGP has to carry considerable blame for the GP shortage. In the last 15years it has restricted intake and successful candidates leading to a gradually worsening and entirely predictable shortage of GPs behind the smokescreen of maintaining incredibly high standards and keeping the pieces of the same cake large for the college members. Enabling retrospective accreditation of previous experience would enable unsuccessful candidates for other college membership to enter GP land much less painfully but these doctors have been disappearing for years to assist or become CMO’s or leave medicine for good. The RCGP has had a much more sensible approach to this for decades…


Dr Kristina Kin   24/05/2024 8:25:00 AM

I think this all may have to do with:
- stopping non-VR Medicare rebates
- Stopping PEP Standard pathway
- Stopping MDRAP
- PFP not yet up and running and makes doctors who were in a 3GA program before, ineligible to join, even if they didn’t finish that program. RVTS can no longer run anymore due to all above points.
- FSP not available at all times to join, like ACCRM
- Extremely underpaid AGPT - some practices paying only the base rate and even expect a FSP doctor to accept inly 50% of billings.
- There are doctors willing to work, but the government just won’t let them!


Dr Shailender Kumar   24/05/2024 8:59:36 AM

Recent closures of GP clinics are alarming, exacerbating healthcare access issues. International Medical Graduates (IMGs) offer a viable solution, ready to fill the gap in services. However, current PESCI (Pre-Employment Structured Clinical Interview) requirements hinder their immediate deployment. Clinics often cannot provide supervision due to staff shortages, creating a vicious cycle of limited healthcare access.

To address this, PESCI exemptions should be granted when clinics demonstrate an inability to supervise due to staffing constraints. This exemption would expedite IMGs' integration into the workforce, alleviating the burden on struggling clinics. Streamlining this process ensures that healthcare needs are met promptly, particularly in underserved areas.

By adopting this approach, we can mitigate clinic closures and maintain essential healthcare services. It's imperative that regulatory bodies recognize the urgency and flexibility required in these unprecedented times.


Dr Elizabeth Catherine Chappel   24/05/2024 9:04:24 AM

I have owned 2 practices for 20 years. We can now open one only 3 days a week and the other 3-4 days per week , in June we have no doctors at all except me for a week . I have had no holiday for nearly a year and work full time often /usually trying to cover both practices via a remote access situation . The situation is dire and not sustainable


Dr Shailender Kumar   24/05/2024 12:19:35 PM

Recent closures of GP clinics are alarming, exacerbating healthcare access issues. International Medical Graduates (IMGs) offer a viable solution, ready to fill the gap in services. However, current PESCI (Pre-Employment Structured Clinical Interview) requirements hinder their immediate deployment. Clinics often cannot provide supervision due to staff shortages, creating a vicious cycle of limited healthcare access.

To address this, PESCI exemptions should be granted when clinics demonstrate an inability to supervise due to staffing constraints. This exemption would expedite IMGs' integration into the workforce, alleviating the burden on struggling clinics. Streamlining this process ensures that healthcare needs are met promptly, particularly in underserved areas.

By adopting this approach, we can mitigate clinic closures and maintain essential healthcare services. It's imperative that regulatory bodies recognize the urgency and flexibility required in these unprecedented times.


Dr John Henry Jarzynski   24/05/2024 5:28:09 PM

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