The latest effort to lure more doctors to country areas are certain to backfire, GPs have warned.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says a Federal government policy change aimed at boosting GPs in regional and outer metro areas will instead see GPs leaving rural and remote communities.
The GPs claim more rural practices will likely close as a result.
The government in the past week has redefined an area's "priority" status to give overseas doctors the ability to shift to country Australia.
It is a complicated system designed to boost the number of GPs in rural and remote Australia by freeing them up from location restrictions.
That would now include international medical graduates and those in bonded medical programs.
Under this week's changes all GP catchments in the Modified Monash Model 2 areas immediately have priority status.
MMM2 are those areas in, or within 20km distance, of a town with a population greater than 50,000.
This means regional cities and outer metro areas, as well as rural and remote parts of the country have priority status, allowing them to recruit from an expanded pool of doctors.
RACGP president Karen Price warned the change would likely have unwanted consequences.
"Earlier this year we welcomed the previous government's decision for MMM3-7 locations to be automatically reclassified as priority areas.
"However, we warned at the time that we would not support it being further expanded to MMM2 areas because of the risk that this will pull doctors away from more rural communities that need them," Adj. Prof. Price said.
"Robbing Peter to pay Paul will not solve the GP shortage in communities across Australia. And that is what the unintended consequence of this policy will be, it will draw GPs from more rural areas to MMM2 areas."
Prof. Price said there is no quick fix solution of attracting doctors to the bush.
"We need more medical students choosing general practice as their career - currently only around 16 per cent of graduates are choosing GP training," she said.
"In order to change this, we need to cut red tape and reform healthcare funding in Australia, to ensure general practice is appropriately supported, sustainable and an attractive and viable career choice."
RACGP rural chair Dr Michael Clements said he feared more rural practices would close if they cannot recruit GPs.
"While this policy change is positive for MMM2 locations - such as my hometown of Townsville - it's not good news for more rural and remote parts of Australia," he said.
"What's going to happen is that doctors will move from rural and remote locations where they've been required to work under the DPA rules to areas that they may perceive as more 'desirable' regional locations, and closer to capital cities."
"I won't be surprised if we see an immediate migration of doctors out of more rural and remote areas that need them."
Dr Clements also called for more substantive measures to boost GP numbers, including rural incentives.
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