Lack of Innisfail GPs leads to increased demand at hospital
The number of people seeking a doctor at Innisfail Hospital has jumped 38 per cent in the past six months as a result.
Innisfail Hospital’s senior medical officer Dr Thomas Coombs agreed it had been “pretty mad” since Dr Chris Tuttle closed his clinic suddenly and Dr Andrew Jay moved from town last year.
“Coming to the hospital with a minor complaint is really irritating,” Dr Coombs said.
“You wait from six or eight hours then the people yell at you because you’re not actually sick – but you’ve got no choice.”
Practice manager for Innisfail Medical Centre Tricia Shinn said it could take 18 months to lure a GP into private practice.
“We were prepared to take on Dr Jay’s patients with a new doctor of our own but when Dr Tuttle left, they (patients) were lined up out the door,” Ms Shinn said.
“We have to source GPs from overseas. There are no Australian GPs and we are trying to get registrars.
“All these doctors are so pressured at the moment, they are taking on so many patients.
“They have stress leave at the moment. They need to take four weeks at a time just to gain back their sense of normality.”
Ms Shinn said the practice only had one doctor seeing patients last week and two doctors in the clinic this week.
“We’re not going to have four doctors back in the surgery until February 22. Patients can’t get their scripts done most of the time,” she said.
People with “ordinary” appointments would not be able to be seen at the practice until early March, and staff were directing people to Cairns 24 Hour Medical Centre and Innisfail Hospital.
Despite four GP clinics operating in town, some patients have had to travel to Tully to be seen the same day.
“Everyone is now in the same boat. Nobody has appointments left,” Ms Shinn said.
Dr Coombs said there was no solution in sight.
“Some sort of reform needs to happen to encourage more people to go into general practice, especially in rural areas,” Dr Coombs said. “When there is a drop in the workforce it’s the State Government that sucks up the pain for a while.
“The Federal Government might offer some incentives but they don’t make special arrangements for one town.”