Regional doctor confusion

FINANCIAL incentives offered to GPs in Bundaberg are less than those offered to those who choose to work in cities such as Townsville, Cairns and Mackay.

The northern cities are considered outer regional areas and attract financial incentives to match, as do towns in the North Burnett.

But Bundaberg is considered to be an inner regional area and has been judged to have better access to goods and services than centres in locations such as the North Queensland centres.

The discrepancies in classification are set to be the subject of a Senate Inquiry later this year, with submissions due by today.

The strange classification has also prompted fears remote areas such as Gayndah, Mundubbera and Biggenden will struggle to attract doctors who will be lured to the larger northern centres.

Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) president Ewen McPhee said the same incentives offered in cities and large towns made recruiting doctors harder.

"This is just one more nail in the coffin," he said.

"If someone is offered the same incentives in Gayndah as someone in a bigger centre, they are going to go with the bigger centre."

Member for Hinkler Paul Neville said he would ask that a hearing for the Senate

Inquiry be held in the Wide Bay region.

"It's important that doctors in the north and south Burnett and Callide regions have a chance to speak before the committee," he said.

Mr Neville said the coalition supported the RDAQ's push for more incentives for small-town doctors.

"We are not against incentives for provincial doctors but there must also be incentives for doctors in rural and remote areas," he said.

North Burnett Mayor Joy Jensen said it was becoming increasingly difficult to attract GPs to the region.

"You just get to know and have confidence in your GP and they leave," she said.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government was aware of the difficulties small towns had in attracting GPs, particularly when they were near larger, well-serviced rural areas.

"The decision for a doctor to relocate to a rural or remote location is not solely based on financial incentive," she said.

"However, to encourage and assist doctors, a range of incentives have been put in place which are seeing encouraging results."

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