The Federal Government is being called on to address the critical ongoing doctor shortage in Deniliquin.
A petition, spearheaded by Deniliquin doctor Ian Dumbrell, will urge the government to reclassify the area as having a District of Workforce Shortage.
This would allow local health providers to access overseas trained doctors to fill the shortage.
Residents have been forced to seek treatment in other towns for most of this year, as local doctors are physically unable to see more patients.
Dr Dumbrell says it could be another six months before the appeal is dealt with by government bodies, prompting him to take immediate action.
‘‘A lack of doctors causes hardships for the entire community, but especially for patients,’’ he said.
Based on access to Medicare services compared to the national average, the Federal Government’s district work shortage criteria doesn’t consider Deniliquin disadvantaged enough to have access to overseas trained doctors.
‘‘We can recruit Australian medical graduates, but there aren’t enough of them — our high school students go away to Melbourne or Bendigo, and it’s hard for them to come back,’’ Dr Dumbrell said.
‘‘If we are classified as a district with a workforce shortage, we will have access to international medical graduates (IMG).’’
Eric Sim Pharmacy owner Eric Sim said the petition a first vital step in improving Deniliquin’s liveability.
‘‘It’s important at this stage because a lot of new residents can’t see doctors and have been forced to go to the emergency department, which puts more pressure on the nurses,’’ he said.
‘‘The shortage has also put more pressure on our doctors because there is a three or four week waiting list for current patients just to see one.
‘‘It’s not good for the town because people won’t come here and it’s inconvenient to have to travel just to see a doctor.’’
Dr Dumbrell said he has already collected about 600 signatures. He is hoping for many more over the next four to six weeks, before the petition is posted to the Federal Parliament’s Standing Committee on Petitions.
‘‘A couple of thousand signatures would send a very strong message, and we’re hoping to get businesses involved,’’ he said.
Dr Dumbrell said another possible long-term avenue for recruitment included supporting rural hospitals to train more interns.
‘‘If we offered more intern programs, medical graduates would be more likely to come here,’’ he said.
‘‘It would also provide overseas medical students an opportunity for training in Australia, and offers an incentive for people to have extended skills.’’
An official decision regarding Deniliquin’s workforce classification will be made in February 2018.
The petition can be signed at Eric Sim Pharmacy, Soul Pattinson Pharmacy and the Deniliquin Central Clinic.