GP shortage may worsen

A PROGRAM enticing young doctors to take up residency in rural communities such as Gympie will no longer deliver positive outcomes after becoming the latest Federal Budget casualty.

That is unless Prime Minister Tony Abbott yields to appeals for a re-think from leading representatives in the medical field.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ian Kamerman said the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program was important in training rural doctors, and encouraged young doctors into general and rural practice.

And for communities like the Gympie region, where a doctor shortage has left residents jostling for appointments or travelling to the Sunshine Coast, the concern is more doctors will gravitate to metropolitan centres.

The program has helped ease pressure on the hospital system by meeting a growing demand for training places for junior doctors.

"General practice is at the frontline of Australia's healthcare system and the PGPPP has been giving interns and junior doctors significant opportunities to experience general practice - and rural practice - before deciding their future medical career path," Dr Kamerman said.

The PGPPP gives young doctors the opportunity to rotate out of the hospital and spend time working as a GP in a general practice or rural practice setting.

"Scrapping the program will put an end to any junior doctor exposure to general practice or rural practice at the exact time they are making decisions on the direction their medical career," Dr Kamerman said.

"All the hard work of developing a sustainable pipeline of doctor training...will be wasted in one fell swoop."

Dr Kamerman said the Gympie community would not escape the impact of the program's axing and this would further affect doctor numbers.

"The program, most importantly, gets training doctors out of hospitals and gives exposure to the GP setting and Gympie most definitely will be impacted," he said.

Dr Kamerman said without exposure to rural communities, fewer doctors would consider establishing a career in places such as Gympie.