Push for ‘proactive’ Govt to address Geraldton GP shortage

Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Dr James Quirke and nurse Lenci Millman at work in the treatment room of a busy Geraldton medical practice.
Camera IconDr James Quirke and nurse Lenci Millman at work in the treatment room of a busy Geraldton medical practice. Credit: Geoff Vivian

A doctor shortage is looming, with one Geraldton medic saying about a quarter of the City’s GPs in private practices are leaving town this month.

“There has been an attempt to rectify the doctor shortage but it hasn’t filtered through to rural and regional areas,” Dr James Quirke said.

“The Government needs to be more proactive about it — they need to engineer a stream of graduates that would find working regionally and rurally acceptable.

“They need to select a core group of medical students from the regions who are likely to be attracted back to spending their career regionally or rurally.”

Dr Quirke, who owns a medical practice in Beachlands, said he relied heavily on overseas-trained doctors, who took between six and 12 months to recruit, to fill vacancies.

“With the increase in local graduates, the authorities have decreased the number of international medical graduates coming into the country but it has not flowed into the regions,” he said.

“They have trebled the number of graduates coming out but those graduates are not filling rural or regional vacancies.”

Dr Quirke said while Broome and larger coastal communities south of Perth had no trouble finding new doctors, for some reason Geraldton was less popular.

He said more must be done to market Geraldton and the Mid West as attractive places to live and work.

“There seems to be a warmer, fuzzier feeling about moving south rather than north,” he said.

“But Geraldton has excellent facilities, good community spirit, the quality of life is excellent.

“People are friendly, the medical community is quite supportive and there is a very high degree of co-operation and cross support across the practices.”

Dr Quirke said there was no single reason why 13 GPs had either left Geraldton since 2019 began or planned to leave this week.

“You tend to get an avalanche effect with loss of GPs, one or two decide to go and it ends up dragging in all the others,” he said.

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