The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed news that Bothwell GP Dr Mary Lumsden has agreed to take on more patients from the Southern and Central Highlands but warned that general practice care in rural and remote areas is on life support.
It comes following Tasmanian Premier and Minister for Health Jeremy Rockliff announcing that Dr Mary Lumsden from Bothwell Doctors will welcome additional GPs to her practice, allowing them to see more patients from the local area. In mid-April this year the only practice in Ouse closed up shop, leaving people without a local GP to turn to. Premier Rockliff also announced that the intention is to offer a service to the Central Highlands Community Health Centre at Ouse from early next year.
RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price welcomed Bothwell Doctors expanding their services but warned that greater support was needed for general practice care.
“Well done to Dr Lumsden and the team from Bothwell Doctors for stepping in to fill the gap and taking on more patients from the local area,” she said.
“This will make an enormous difference to the health and wellbeing of people in Ouse and nearby areas, particularly those patients with multiple, complex conditions that need to be carefully monitored by a regular GP. The fact that this expansion of services has taken place following the closure of Ouse’s only clinic is very concerning. Unless general practice care receives a shot in the arm in the form of increased long-term funding, more and more practices, especially outside of major cities, will face the prospect of closing their doors, leaving patients without a local GP.
“This highlights yet again the importance of properly investing in general practice care, so that practices are put on a more sustainable financial footing in the years ahead. Medicare patient rebates for GP consultations simply haven’t kept pace with the cost of providing high-quality care and this must be addressed. Otherwise, we will be increasingly reliant on more ‘stop gap’ solutions like this one from Bothwell Doctors in rural and remote communities. Whole system reform is needed as individual rescue programs like this are surely not the long-term answer.”
RACGP Tasmania Chair Dr Tim Jackson echoed the President’s comments.
“RACGP Tasmania is enormously grateful to Bothwell Doctors following the closure of Ouse’s only practice earlier this year,” he said.
“Patients in the Southern and Central Highlands now have a GP to turn to. However, unless general practice care in rural and remote areas receives an investment boost, we will have more and more patients being left behind. The federal Government could ease the pressure on practices in Tasmania and across Australia by boosting investment in general practice care. We are calling for a 10% increase to Medicare rebates for consultations lasting 20 to 40 minutes and 40 minutes plus as well as a new Medicare item for consults lasting more than 60 minutes.
“Earlier this year, the Tasmanian Government flagged the idea of the states and territories stepping in to assist communities struggling to secure GPs or unable to find GPs willing to bulk bill. We believe that any plan that could potentially boost general practice care, particularly in rural and remote areas, should be strongly considered. It is essential that GPs are consulted along the way so that we can ensure reforms are fit-for-purpose.
“Once again, thank you to Dr Lumsden and the team from Bothwell Doctors and I wish patients in the local area all the best after what must have been a very stressful and uncertain period.”