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Brighton doctors abandon practice

PATIENTS in the Central Highlands, Derwent Valley and Brighton municipalities are again reeling with the closure of another local GP practice. Brighton Doctors will close its doors on September 23.

The announcement was made online just last week. It follows the shock closure of the Ouse GP earlier this year which left hundreds of patients scrambling to find alternative GP services.

The Brighton surgery has been operating with just one GP since last year when two doctors left, one due to retirement and the other ill health. Brighton Mayor Leigh Gray said the GP practice did not formally advise the council of the closure before advising clients. “

We have put in calls and are yet to hear back to have discussions with them about the lease and with the Federal Government who control terms of this lease until June 30 next year,’’ Mr Gray said. “They have been down to one doctor for quite some time. “We are progressing discussions with another GP practice about establishing a new practice on council land. “After a temporary pause due to changes in Federal classifications, which appeared to make a new GP practice in Brighton unviable, planning and progress towards this goal is again being made.

“There is a limit to what local government can do to control sectors that are in the Federal and State domain, and indeed to influence or control the business decisions of a private business. “We are however, taking our ‘advocacy’ and ‘facilitation’ role very seriously in this very important community need.’’

Labor Lyons MHR Brian Mitchell said the closure was distressing news. “The lack of GPs in regional and outer suburban areas is a nationwide problem,’’ Mr Mitchell said. “Not enough medical students become GPs and not enough of those who do come to practice in the regions. “Every Tasmanian deserves access to affordable, high quality health care regardless of where they live and as your federal MP I am working towards the achievement of that goal.’’

Premier and Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Government was disappointed in the news of the closure. “The Brighton Doctors Clinic has made it clear that this decision has been made on the basis of sustainability and Medicare rebates,’’ Mr Rockliff said. “Despite the best efforts of hard-working GPs we are seeing falling bulk-billing rates and increasing difficulty accessing appointments for Tasmanians. “The closure of GP services in Brighton and Ouse are examples of why reforms are urgently needed.

“The State Government has put forward an initial proposal to have general practice and primary care services in rural and regional areas in Tasmania, which struggle to offer sustainable GP services. “This pilot would continue to be funded by the Federal Government, but run by the State, and fully integrated with Tasmania’s single public health and hospital system.’’

In addition to this, the Tasmanian Government has sought assistance from Tasmania’s Rural Workforce Agency – HR Plus – and Primary Care Tasmania on options available for patients in the impacted area. “I will continue to raise this matter with my Federal counterparts as a priority so that Tasmanians can get access to a GP, sooner.’’

Brighton Doctors Surgery is at 1 Bedford Street Brighton. Another practice, Brighton Regional Doctors at 174 Brighton Road remains open.