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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, has joined Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Tasmania Chair Dr Tim Jackson to talk about the worsening GP shortage in Tasmania and what needs to be done to fix it.

“My office is being contacted constantly by sick people unable to get an appointment to see a GP, let alone one who bulk bills,” Mr Wilkie said. “Indeed the peak body for general practice, the RACGP, says there are currently more than 60 GP positions vacant across the state including 19 in local government areas in Greater Hobart.

“Inevitably patients who can’t see a GP in a timely fashion wind up delaying treatment until they land in the emergency department or go without care altogether. Moreover, ED waiting times in Tasmania are already well below acceptable levels, so clearly something’s got to give.

“Without serious reforms in the primary healthcare system, including a long-overdue increase in the Medicare rebate, the situation is only going to get worse. Until the rebate rises, making healthcare affordable for patients and ensuring GPs achieve pay parity with colleagues working in hospitals, the GP workforce will continue to contract, sick people will continue to wait longer for treatment and the already overloaded acute-care system will bear the burden.”

Dr Jackson said there had not been enough investment in the general practice workforce, which had led to many communities facing severe shortages of GPs, particularly rural and remote areas.

“The lack of resourcing has led us to the point where only 15 per cent of final year medical students in 2019 listed general practice as their first-preference speciality future – the lowest number since 2012,” he said. “We must reverse this trend immediately, because everyone in Tasmania deserves access to first-rate general practice care, no matter their postcode.

“Tasmania, just like many other parts of Australia, is at a critical juncture when it comes to the GP workforce and the choice in front of us couldn’t be more stark. Governments can continue on the current trajectory and we will see more and more communities under-serviced by GPs who are spread too thin. Or governments can put general practice on a more sustainable, long-term financial footing including increases to Medicare rebates. If we change course, the task of attracting junior doctors to this career path will be made so much easier.”