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Distribution Priority Area status will help understaffed Bunbury medical centres

Jacinta CantatoreSouth Western Times
Major medico recruitment website Rurual Health West had listed 27 GP vacancies on Monday February 28.
Camera IconMajor medico recruitment website Rurual Health West had listed 27 GP vacancies on Monday February 28. Credit: Rural Heatlh West

Severely understaffed medical practices in Bunbury will now be able to fill vacancies thanks to a Federal Government review of the region’s medical workforce.

Federal Regional Health Minister Dr David Gillespie declared the Bunbury region a Distribution Priority Area, a status that will allow medical centres to recruit international and graduate Australian doctors to fill General Practitioner vacancies.

The declaration was made possible thanks to a push from the region’s doctors applying to have the status reviewed under a new exceptional-circumstances review through the Department.

Bunbury medical practices have faced severe GP shortages over the past few years, with pressure on staff further impacted by medical staff being unable to easily enter WA over the past two years due to the State’s hard border arrangements.

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Latest figures showed there were 27 job vacancies for GPs in South West medical practices - the highest in the State and almost double the vacancies facing the next hardest-hit region.

The Pilbara has 15 GP vacancies, followed by the Great Southern with 12 GP vacancies.

Brecken Health Care owner and managing director Dr Brenda Murrison was among those leading the charge for this change of status for Bunbury.

She said the new classification will benefit the South West community as a whole.

“This is wonderful news for the entire community,” Dr Murrison said.

“During the course of the pandemic we have been unable to replace departing doctors - either through retirement or heading to Perth or overseas for family reasons - due to the strict rules around recruitment.”

DPA classifications are reviewed every 12 months, the next review taking place on June 30 - giving Bunbury medical centres a few short months to recruit until the current classification expires.

“The DPA allows us to recruit doctors internationally and within Australia,” Dr Murrison said.

“The application period is open for only a short window of a few months, but should help ease the shortages we are experiencing now.“

Former St John of God Hospital Bunbury chief executive Mark Grime said the status allowed Bunbury to compete equally with other regional areas to attract much-needed GPs.

“Whilst there are challenges in recruiting doctors from overseas Bunbury is now on a level playing field and can recruit GPs from capital cities and other parts of Australia,” Dr Grime said.

“People who live in the regions should have the same access to health care as people living in metro areas.”

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