HEALTH NEEDS: Blackbutt Family Medical Centre practice manager Jeff Connor.
HEALTH NEEDS: Blackbutt Family Medical Centre practice manager Jeff Connor. Tobi Loftus

Burnett's struggle for more doctors

BLACKBUTT Family Medical Centre practice manager Jeff Connor has more than a decade of experience in trying to attract new doctors to the Burnett.

He said one of the big issues was exposure to new graduates.

Queensland has welcomed 740 new doctors who this week started their careers at public hospitals across the state.

However only 66 of the 740 new doctors have shown interest in rural internships.

Mr Connor said it was a layered struggle to get graduates into the rural medical centre.

"When we first started here in 2006 we had no applications for positions from Australian GPs, either out of university or older ones looking for a change," Mr Connor said.

"So we had to go down the overseas-trained doctors route."

This entailed sponsoring the visas of those GPs as well as supporting passport applications and residency declarations.

"Then we found that wasn't a good way of attracting a GP to the area because those GPs were using our resources to get into the country," he said.

"Once they arrived, they would begin to look for work elsewhere."

Two of those GPs lasted less than 10 months.

"The only way we found success in attracting doctors right out of university was through the registrar system," Mr Connor said.

"You need to promote yourself or make yourself available to the student body with the hope they will come back.

"Medical students' time in the country is very important. Word of mouth is important, medical students talking to each other about their time in rotation at the practice."

Mr Connor said the next step was to convince the registrars to stay on as second years with an eye towards settling in the area.

Currently the practice only has first year registrars.

Of the 740 new doctors graduating in Queensland, 30 general interns and 10 rural generalist interns will be working in the Darling Downs region, all in Toowoomba.

Acting Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Shannon Fentiman said the latest cohort of medical interns would be spread across the state, with 279 spread across Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

"More than half of them are beginning their rotations in regional hospitals, all of which are excellent training grounds," she said.

"I'm also pleased to see that 66 of these junior clinicians have shown an interest in rural and remote medicine."

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