Feds hit back over issue of rural doctors

Tessa Randello

The federal government has hit back at claims it should be doing more to address the issue of doctor shortages in rural and regional areas.

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia said the government should have included regional GP practices in its promise to cut red tape for small businesses and streamline documentation processes, The Express reported last week.

In a statement it said the current processes for doctors to access Medicare documents and collate their credentials to move to regional and rural hospitals were deterring them from working in those areas.

RDAA president elect Dr John Hall said the credential process was “erroneous” and a big part of the reason doctors aren’t working in regional locations. The RDAA suggested credentialing committees including rural doctors and a national system of storing credentials should be put in place.

Minister for Regional Services Mark Coulton said that addressing the issue was not simple.

“The government is focused on improving capacity, quality, distribution and services of doctors to regional communities but already had some solutions in place,” Mr Coulton said.

“Doctors working in rural communities can access the Department of Human Services’ online portal – Health Professional Online Service – to register for their Medicare Provider Numbers.”

A spokesperson for the Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said “primary healthcare is the federal government’s responsibility – and they need to be doing more to address this issue,” about the shortage of regional and rural doctors.

Ms Mikakos said the state government was finding ways to help with initiatives to expand GP training across Victoria.