Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for the Bay and Basin area to be included as a Priority Distribution Area so it can attract overseas-trained doctors to work in medical clinics.
Dr Kate Manderson is on the verge of closing her Sanctuary Point Clinic because she can’t attract any Australian doctors and is unable to employ any of the overseas-trained medicos who want to work in the centre, due to a recent decision not to include the region as a Priority Distribution Area.
She said while the petition was a first step, she needed people to tell politicians about their problems getting to see a doctor.
“This petition isn’t going to change everything, it’s going to be one of a lot of things that will have to come together to make a difference to this situation,” Dr Manderson said.
“We need people to keep telling their story about how difficult it is to find a doctor that they can trust and they can work with to look after them.”
The Health Department denied the Bay and Basin Priority Distribution Area rating because it said there were enough doctors in the region to meet benchmarks endorsed by a range of rural health experts.
However Dr Manderson said that denied the reality of the number of people calling medical centres trying to get appointments, only to be told there were none available.
“Our receptionists are getting phone calls from people – perhaps they’re new to the area, or they want to change their GP for whatever reason, some women want to see a female GP to look after some of their problems and the practice that they’re at can’t offer that,” she said.
“We’re getting phone calls every day, dozens a day, ‘Please, please can your doctors see us?’ and we just have to say no, our books are closed, we’re not taking new patients, we just need to look after the patients that are already on our books.
“People are really distraught - they can’t see a doctor, their kids are sick.
“Even a simple thing like a certificate for work, if they’re waiting at home for a COVID test, they just can’t get a doctor, and it’s just not good enough for the Department of Health to say there are enough doctors down here.”
Dr Manderson said the next step was for people to write to the Health Minister Greg Hunt and Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips about the situation.
“I really would encourage people to share their stories with the local MP, with Fiona Phillips, and also with minister Hunt to say it’s just not good enough- we need more doctors in the Shoalhaven, that’s it.”