A few statistics from the two stories:
- There are currently 42 GPs in Tamworth including part time professionals, equating to 32 full time GPs. Tamworth is short at least 12 GPs.
- Between 1997 and 2007, 1.5 specialists joined the work force for every GP, while the number of specialists in training doubled.
- The GP ratio for NSW is one GP for every 1035 people. In Tamworth, the ratio is one GP for every 1699 people.
- Nationally 88 per cent of GPs live in cities where they provide services to 66 per cent of the population.
The GP shortage is not, of course, limited to Tamworth.
I discussed a few of the reasons for the shortage in my February post.
One of the key issues, one referred to in the latest stories, is life style. This is not so much a question of city v country, although that is an issue, but rather changing expectations and gender structures in both city and country. This means that we need more GPs than before to service the same population. Where, as is the case in many country areas, the existing medical workforce is aging, then problems compound.
There are no easy solutions. Even with increased training in regional areas, it will take a number of years before the problem starts to ease. Just to put this in perspective, UNE's School of Rural Medicine (the closest) presently has around 118 students. The current Tamworth GP shortage alone equates to 10 per cent of this number.