Thursday, May 30, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

National GP Shortage Blamed For Bowen Surgery Closure

The latest victim of severe staff shortages in the medical industry is the Bowen Herbert Street Family Medical Centre which announced this week that it will close its doors at the end of June.

Over 200 GP clinics in Australia have closed down in the past year, many of them citing the same reason – they simply cannot get enough GPs.

Bowen Herbert Street Family Medical Centre is operated by the Girudala Community Cooperative Society, which is a non-for-profit organisation which predominantly overseas the welfare of Indigenous and South Sea Islander community members.

Since 2010, Girudala has been operating the Medical Centre and they welcome all patients, with more than 2,000 people registered on their books.

When they close their doors on June 30, there will only be two other medical centres in Bowen, servicing a population of over 10,000 people.

Bowen Herbert Street Family Medical Centre was also the last service to offer Bulkbilling to all patients.

The other Bowen GP clinics offer Bulkbilling to pensioners and children under 16, but there was a huge demand to fill the gap for vulnerable people that did not fit that age-bracket.

Bowen Herbert Street Family Medical Centre filled that gap.

The closure of this much-needed medical Centre will put immense pressure not only on the other GP clinics but also Bowen Hospital.

A spokesperson for Bowen Herbert Street Family Medical Centre, Jean Andersen, said they are appealing for help.

“It’s been a really hard decision to close the doors and we’ve been trying to reach out to the government for some kind of support,” she explained.

“We’ve gone through everything we can think of and now we’ve made the decision, our primary focus is to refer our patients onto other health services.

“I’m sure every rural and remote community is crying out for GPs as well; we are asking the government to help us in any way they can – is there any funding to attract doctors here?
“We need a resolution soon and I really hope we can find one.”

For several years, the Bowen Herbert Street Family Medical Centre has been surviving with locum GPs who work at the clinic for short periods.

A few years ago, they had two permanent doctors, but there are now no regular GPs to fill the huge demand and the service simply cannot cope anymore.

“This is a national crisis and governments are failing remote communities like Bowen, who simply cannot afford to pay for doctors,” stated Ms Andersen.

“The closure of Herbert Street will place extreme pressure on health services in the area and we’re calling on local governments, namely local, state and commonwealth to work together with us and with the community to develop a sustainable long-term and viable medical health solution.”

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