Interstate doctors fill shortfall

By ADRIAN MILLER amiller@dailyexaminer.com.au

THE Grafton Base Hospital (GBH) is being forced to use locum doctors from as far away as Adelaide because it can't find qualified local doctors to cover shifts.

And in the past, doctors from Perth and even New Zealand have had to be sourced to enable the hospital to continue to provide services.

GBH executive officer John Wickham said the problem stemmed from an Australia wide shortage of doctors.

"Particularly in some speci- alities, as a general trend,

there's not enough doctors," he said. "Also the ability to attract them to come from the city to the rural areas (is difficult)."

Mr Wickham said while using locums was an accepted and industry wide practice, the extra costs associated with locums could cause budget problems for hospitals.

"It does put pressure (on the hospital) because it means it costs more because we usually have to pay higher for a locum doctor than we do for our own doctors," he said.

"On top of that we've got travel and accommodation costs as well, so it certainly does cause pressure."

North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) chief execu- tive Chris Crawford said while not always the first choice, using locums was necessary.

"We do pay more for locums so therefore as far as we possibly can we don't use them," he said.

"But when it is a choice between providing services or using a locum we we do source the locums to provide the service because we know the public wants the service."

Mr Crawford said the only solution was finding more doctors, and while there are programs in place to train more doctors and attract them to regional areas, they would take time to come to fruition.



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