STAWELL’S Patrick Street Family Practice has called on governments to act after a zoning change meant one of its doctors needed to move.
Manager Barb Horwood said the busy practice’s only female doctor had to relocate last year after zoning changes made them a ‘non-needy area’ for doctors.
She said this meant the practice’s two remaining doctors were seeing more than 80 people a day between them to cope with demand.
Mrs Horwood said the practice’s female doctor moved to Stawell with her husband.
“They built a house and were happy to live in the town and raise their children, but unfortunately with the relocation, they had no choice but to sell their home,” she said.
“It's a huge thing for them to move to a country town, and for us to get someone and then be told they have to move, it's disgraceful.”
Mrs Horwood said the area’s classification changed ‘basically overnight’.
She said the practice tried to find out why the zoning changed, to no avail.
“Every avenue we looked into – at local and federal government level – yielded the same answer: you are classed as a non-needy area,” she said.
“We are double-booking our doctors because we are in such high demand.
“The practice has two doctors, both male, and losing our female doctor had a huge impact.
“It has caused stress for everyone, from admin staff to doctors.
“The doctors work long hours, and each doctor would probably see at least 40 people a day.”
Mrs Horwood called on governments to act urgently to address the issue.
“I would like to see changes made, with the government pulling their fingers out and walking in a doctor's shoes for a week,” she said.
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said the region was in the grip of a critical shortage of doctors.
She said the health effects for the region’s residents were huge.
Ms Kealy spoke about the issue in parliament last month, and called on the government to address the shortage.
“People who rely on prescription medication to manage their health are unable to get an appointment to see a local doctor and are forced to skip medication, travel great distances to go to a doctor unfamiliar with their history or condition, or end up in the emergency department, putting a huge additional burden on our public health system,” she said.
“At least nine doctors have left Horsham in the past twelve months, resulting in patients waiting for over a month for a routine medical appointment.”