GP shortage hits another Tasmanian community as doctor’s exit causes dismay among elderly patients in Campbell Town

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Margaret Crisp has lived all her life in the Campbell Town area of ​​the North Midlands, Tasmania.

The 92-year-old fears the town is on the verge of losing its only GP.

“We are devastated that they are leaving us after two years,” she said.

“I have an appointment every two months here with one of the rural doctors and I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve been here all my life.

“I have health issues, and I’m one of many.”

The situation in Campbell Town is a similar crisis that has unfolded across the state as Tasmania grapples with a shortage of rural doctors.

For the past two years, Northern Midlands Medical Center in Longford has provided GPs to Campbell Town and its aging population.

But that will come to an end in early January, leaving the 26-bed Campbell Town Hospital without a doctor and the town without a single GP.

Campbell Town Hospital board chairman David Gatenby said the workload and availability of GPs had had an impact.

“A GP should take care of around 800 patients, the practice operates at a GP who takes care of 2,000 patients.”

“There is a huge overwork and there is a lack of GPs on the books.”

A Longford-based medical practice took over the practice in Campbell Town two years ago, and they also serve Perth.

“The workload was so heavy that they had to drop out of Campbell Town,” Mr Gatenby said.

“It’s just devastating to our community.”

Jill Clarke says Campbell Town is a service hub, but “you can’t provide services if you don’t have them”.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

Jill Clarke worries about the impact of not having a GP.

“It’s always a concern when something like this happens because we’re a service town,” she said.

“We are here to provide services to the region and you can’t provide services if you don’t have them.

“It serves such a large area, from Avoca, Royal George to halfway to Longford, to Ross, to Oatlands.”

A woman poses for a photo in front of an old house.
Josie Avice says more incentives should be offered to physicians to work in regional areas.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

Josie Avice said many townspeople were worried, describing it as a “total tragedy that doctors are living through”.

“We have a really aging population here, I would say 85% of the population is over 65.

“There are a lot of illnesses going on with some people and people who have to come in every week, sometimes twice a week.

“If they can’t get a car or transportation from a friend, they’re totally isolated.”

She said federal and state governments must step in.

“Why can’t we bring the young doctors here who have finished for two years and practice, they would learn so much in a rural area,” she said.

“And those who could come five years? They could have their HECS [debt] wiped.”

A man stands in front of an old style house in rural Tasmania.
Warren Clarke fears losing access to localized health care.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

Like many in the region, Vietnam veteran Warren Clarke has health issues.

“Over the past 20 years I’ve had quite a few medical issues that have been sorted out, but it’s very convenient to come to the doctor here and get treatment,” he said.

“We’ve all looked after us very well in the past, I think, and it’s going to be a shame if we no longer have the service.”

Assistant Secretary for Primary Care Dale Webster said the Department of Health was urgently looking for a replacement doctor for Campbell Town.

“We have now started working with other firms to find out whether or not they can expand their services in this area,” he said.

He said the use of locums for health care would be looked at.

“They are a short-term solution if we can’t find anything else, so if we have to keep the practice going from January 6 and we haven’t found a solution with the Australian government, then we will put in place replacements. for the hospital part.

“But that’s not helping the community, they’re not getting GP services from us doing that.”

Signage at Campbell Town Health and Community Department.
The Tasmanian government says its “aim is to work with federal health officials to find a suitable provider to provide GP services to the local community”.(ABC News: Damian McIntyre)

In a statement on Monday evening, Mr Webster said it was “important to note that GPs are small businesses and to make their decisions separately from those made by the Tasmanian Department of Health”.

“While the Federal Government is responsible for GPs in Australia with funding through the Medicare system, the Tasmanian Department of Health is taking proactive action and working with Federal Health officials to address the current situation in Campbell Town.

“The Tasmanian Department of Health is responsible for the operation of the Campbell Town Health and Community Service, which includes a 20-bed aged care facility and a six-bed subacute inpatient facility.

“Our goal is to work with federal health officials to find a suitable provider to provide GP services to the local community, to ensure continuity of the local GP model of care supporting Campbell Town Health and Community Service.”

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