Swanson calls for action on Port Stephens GP crisis

Hon. Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Health with Meryl Swanson MP, Member for Paterson.


LAST week, Meryl Swanson MP, Member for Paterson held a roundtable with the Hon. Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Health and representatives from Port Stephens medical practices who raised concerns about workloads of local GP’s and the recruitment crisis in our region.

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Earlier this year the Department of Health released its Distribution Priority Area’s (DPA), a classification system that is intended to recognise locations with a shortage of medical practitioners.

The DPA does not consider tourist influxes common to our region, or the higher percentage of retirees and aged care facilities.

It predominantly relies on census data from 2016 that does not reflect the numbers today.

“Our region is at crisis point with some practices turning away more than 100 patients a day. “This is outrageous and demonstrates the systematic failings of the DPA model.

“We have a desperate need for more doctors in Port Stephens.

“Our region is not metropolitan and shouldn’t be disadvantaged because of our proximity to Newcastle.

“Families and retiree’s move to our area for the lifestyle and they need to be confident of accessing the local GP,” Ms Swanson said.

The round table hosted in Ms Swanson’s office allowed local practice managers to speak candidly with the Minister about the needs of local patients and the demand on local doctors.

Representatives of local practices discussed the pressures each is currently under with Minister Coulton and Ms Swanson.

“It’s important for everyone to be heard and for the Minister to understand the stresses on local practices.

“The message is clear; our region is in desperate need for support in recruiting local doctors who are keen to settle in the area.

“I’m confident the Minister has heard the needs of locals and will I welcome his commitment to provide support to the struggling practices,” Ms Swanson said.

During the round table, it was revealed that local practices may have to start walking away from services to nursing homes as a result of the recruitment crisis.

Currently this relieves pressure on the local hospital and reduces the lengthy travel residents would need to make when seeking medical attention.

Local practices also advised that the Tomaree Hospital often isn’t being staffed daily by a visiting medical officer increasing pressures on local practices to serve as a proxy emergency room.

The Minister committed to investigate alternate incentive options and to provide more detail to the local stakeholders in due course.


A roundtable has been held to discuss corners over access to GP’s in Port Stephens.

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