ONLY one Wagga GP has benefited from a $13.1 million federal government cash splash on health care, despite the city’s “chronic” doctor shortage.
Forest Hill Medical Centre will reap the rewards of a shared $500,000 funding boost across Riverina MP Michael McCormack’s electorate.
It was the only Riverina-based practice to receive a cash injection – despite 67 clinics being shortlisted throughout Australia.
The funding comes amid reports patients are clogging Wagga Rural Referral Hospital’s emergency department (ED) with trivial medical conditions.
The number of “non urgent” patients treated at the ED increased from 823 in 2016 to 884 this year, according to Bureau of Health Information statistics.
Kooringal Medical Centre was earmarked for future funding as part of the Turnbull government’s Rural General Practice Grants program.
Practice manager Cheryl Balkwill admitted medical resources are stretched to their limits, forcing the clinic to often turn away patients.
“It would be lovely not to be turning patients away and to be able to see those urgent cases all the time,” she said.
“There’s nothing worse than having to send patients away and telling them they’re not as urgent as some.
“We’re absolutely committed to growing this practice and we also recognise there’s not enough doctors.
“We’re hoping to have 13 consulting rooms, an extra nurse treatment room and be able to house the Allied Health permanently.”
However, the announcement came as a significant relief to Forest Hill residents.
Jonah Harris hopes the increased funding will allow her to make timely appointments without having to travel into Wagga’s CBD.
“They essentially have three rooms but always just the one doctor,” she said.
“It’s often a real struggle when bub is feeling very sick because it can take a couple of days to get in.
“Hopefully this means we’ll actually be able to make the most of the centre.”
Michael McCormack claims it will vastly improve Wagga’s health services.
“Better facilities will allow more doctors, nurses and other health workers to get hands-on training in general practices in regional areas,” he said.
“They will be able to attend to patients and also, when they are fully qualified, are more likely to decide to stay in the region.”