Incentives boost to bring more GPs to Northern Rivers
INCENTIVES to attract more doctors to the Northern Rivers will be boosted for several towns, but only maintained in Lismore, under changes to the payment system.
The classification system that controls how incentives are distributed under the GP Rural Incentives Program will be updated to a new model from July this year.
About 450 small rural towns will get more incentives for doctors, with $50 million diverted from 14 larger regional centres that will no longer qualify.
Payments will go to doctors once they have worked in rural or remote towns for two years, compared with six months previously, under a tiered system.
It is understood payments will rise from $4500 for the second year to up to $12,000, for towns with a population between 15,000 and 50,000 people.
Those payments are understood to rise with both remoteness of the town and the smaller population under the reforms.
Doctors choosing to work in Casino, Byron Bay, Bangalow, Kempsey, Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby, Suffolk Park, Murwillumbah, Bellingen, Uralla and Uranga will get about a $500-a-year boost to payments.
Professor Lesley Barclay, head of the University of Sydney's Centre for Rural Health in Lismore, was delighted with the long-awaited move.
She said it was important smaller country towns that otherwise were not getting the benefits of the incentive did so.
Prof Hughes said many coastal towns had less trouble recruiting than inland towns such as Casino.
"I do know there's a lot of inland towns where there's one practice struggling to survive and anything that acts as an incentive to increase GPs going to those areas is welcome," she said.
But Prof Hughes said more work was needed to improve allied health services, particularly at rural pharmacies where there was no support for salaried allied health workers.