Incentives boost to bring more GPs to Valley

INCENTIVES to attract more doctors to the Clarence Valley will be boosted for Maclean, Iluka and Yamba, but only maintained in Grafton, 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.

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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 Maclean, Iluka and Yamba will get about a $500 a year boost to payments; while Grafton will still get some benefits but is unlikely to get an increase.

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, because of better lifestyle factors, had less trouble recruiting than inland towns.

"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.


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