Peel clinics call for state government assistance as Coalition promises extension to attract GPs

'At a standstill': Pinjarra Doctors managing director Mala Pillay and Dr Hendrik vander Walt. Picture: Claire Sadler.

'At a standstill': Pinjarra Doctors managing director Mala Pillay and Dr Hendrik vander Walt. Picture: Claire Sadler.

A deadline has been looming since GP clinics in Mandurah and Pinjarra found out they would be able to recruit from a larger pool of medical practitioners.

In February, the Peel was given Distribution Priority Area (DPA) status to address the GP shortage in the region - but only until the end of June.

However, if re-elected the Coalition has promised to extend the DPA status for 12 months from July 1, 2022.

This would give medical practices in Peel more time to recruit overseas trained doctors and bonded medical program participants to address workforce shortages.

Canning MP Andrew Hastie says the extension will ensure locals can access the health services they need. Picture: Supplied.

Canning MP Andrew Hastie says the extension will ensure locals can access the health services they need. Picture: Supplied.

Canning MP Andrew Hastie said the extension of DPA status would ensure Mandurah locals had access to the health services they needed.

"This will give local GP practices more stability and certainty to deliver better health services in the Mandurah local area," he said.

"This extension reflects the Morrison government's focus on ensuring locals can access the essential services we need."

Regional Health Minister David Gillespie said the extension recognised the challenges faced with recruiting doctors to peri-urban and regional centres.

"The extension will help regional areas to respond to unforeseen workforce and population changes," Dr Gillespie said.

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This announcement comes as clinics are calling on the state government to classify the region as an Area of Need (AoN).

In WA, the AoN program provides temporary assistance to health services to recruit international medical graduates when unable to fill vacant positions with suitable Australian-qualified practitioners.

Without this classification Peel clinics are struggling to fill positions.

Pinjarra Doctors practice manager Mala Pillay said without an AoN classification the clinic could not hire overseas medical practitioners.

"Having DPA alone doesn't cut it to employ overseas trained doctors and international medical graduates trained in Australia - it needs to be coupled with Area of Need," she said.

"For them to complete the fellowship training program we then need another change in zoning.

"We do have an international medical graduate from South Africa with over 20 years of GP experience but we need to overcome the hurdles and know that she can train and work here before we invest in relocating her. We've come to a standstill."

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Ms Pillay said she submitted an AoN application in April and was eagerly awaiting a response.

Mandurah Psychological Services psychologist Amy Henderson said her practice had struggled to attract medical professionals.

"The majority of psychologists work in metropolitan regions, with very few working in remote areas - similar can be said for mental health nurses and other mental health professionals," she said.

"The government changes to access to Telehealth have helped, but this does not compensate for face to face, responsive and compassionate care. In the Peel region I have certainly noticed difficulty finding qualified professionals for our practice."

Murray-Wellington MP says the state government was currently reviewing an Area of Need status application from Peel clinics. Picture: Supplied.

Murray-Wellington MP says the state government was currently reviewing an Area of Need status application from Peel clinics. Picture: Supplied.

According to Murray-Wellington MP Robyn Clarke, the Chief Medical Officer is currently reviewing a joint application from several clinics in the Peel region for classification as an AoN.

Mr Hastie also said he was liaising with the state government.

"These are the areas we really need to work together in," Mr Hastie said.