Pinjarra Doctors see light at the end of the tunnel with policy to attract GPs extended

Pinjarra Doctors have received positive news after lobbying for a change to a federal government policy for months. Photo: Claire Sadler.
Pinjarra Doctors have received positive news after lobbying for a change to a federal government policy for months. Photo: Claire Sadler.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel after all."

Those are the words of Mala Pillay, when she announced Murray Street clinic, Pinjarra Doctors received an exemption to take on more GP registrars in 2022.

The clinic has been providing care to thousands of patients since 2010 but 11 years on from its opening, Pinjarra Doctors lost 700 appointments weekly as GPs continued to be pushed out of the region due to a federal government policy.

A decision in 2019 to rezone the Peel region as outer-metropolitan, instead of rural, has made it near-impossible for GP practices to attract and retain doctors.

When the Mail first spoke to managing director Ms Pillay in early June she said the clinic would be down to two full-time GPs at the end of the year without an exemption to the policy.

Related:

In a welcome turn of events, Pinjarra Doctors including the Peel catchment got the much sought-after extension to take on new registrars in 2022 giving staff and patients a bit of reprieve for another year.

"We have received a further extension to end in 2022 with an automatic 19AB exemption for those fellowing in 2022, further to that there is a promise of an incentive package being put together to make it attractive to recruit unrestricted doctors to work in the Peel region," Ms Pillay said.

"This all eventuated after several talks, liaising through Andrew Hastie, Minister Hunt's senior advisor and the key persons in the Department of Health and Rural Workforce Division."

Related:

It was a sigh of relief for Ms Pillay and the principal doctors when they received the extension, however, Pinjarra Doctors isn't out of the woods yet.

"As we struggle on with just 3.5 full-time doctors till we can increase that quota the remaining doctors will be soldiering on to keep the service going," Ms Pillay said.

"The portal was open since the announcement was made last week but I am waiting for applications from registrars to come in.

Ms Pillay and the principals stand by their belief that if Pinjarra is rezoned rural instead of outer-metropolitan, it would be a more permanent solution as the "clinic has battled this workforce issue for years".