Clermont Hospital.
Clermont Hospital. Daryl Wright

'Take the health crisis in the bush seriously'

"I WOULD like to think we live in a first world country.”

With those words, Burdekin MP Dale Last pleaded for help in State Parliament and asked MPs to take the "health crisis” in the bush seriously.

Mackay Hospital and Health Service has been facing an uphill battle as it tries to replace two permanent doctors who left Clermont last year.

Executive director of rural services Terry Johnson told the Daily Mercury in August the current model, which requires doctors to work in both the hospital and in general practice, was difficult to recruit to.

Mr Last told parliament the health service had also been trying to recruit a second doctor in Collinsville for four years and Clermont was being serviced by locums because "those places cannot attract a single permanent applicant”.

"The current system for recruiting medical practitioners and retaining them in rural communities is broken,” he said.

"If a person lives in a community such as Collinsville, Dysart or Clermont, they do not have the luxury of shopping around for a doctor.

"There is one doctor, and that is it. If for any reason that doctor is tied up, if they are unable to fit that person in because of their workload, or they are called away, the only option that person has is to drive to the nearest town and source another doctor.”

Irrigators meet Shadow Minister for Agriculture Dale Last at Yangan farm to inspect bores drought
Burdekin MP Dale Last. Bianca Hrovat

Mr Last said a Clermont constituent called him recently to talk about the round-trip she made to Emerald to see a doctor.

"This elderly lady has not driven out of Clermont for some 15 years and here she was undertaking a 200-kilometre round trip, running the gauntlet of road trains, kangaroos and highway traffic,” he said.

"It is not good enough. I certainly hope that it is not going to take a death before this government acts on this issue. I have spoken to the Queensland health minister. I have written to the Federal health minister as well.

"There is no question in my mind that this is an issue that will require a commitment from all levels of government, medical schools and colleges. There is no easy fix to this problem.”

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Mr Last said access to basic medical services should be expected.

"This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency and I will continue to fight to have this system overhauled so that country people have access to the same basic health services as their city cousins,” he said.

"When one sees the growth in these communities, in particular in our mining towns, there is a need to have medical practitioners based in those communities, not only to service the local community but also to be there in case of an emergency.

"We have had a number of fatalities in the resource sector in recent months, which highlights the importance of having medical practitioners available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"This is a serious issue and I am not about to give up the fight to have this matter addressed.”