City of Karratha

Council allocates funds to improve community access to medical services

15 May 2020

An initiative to improve access to medical services within the City of Karratha has been allocated funds by Council.

The Medical Services Equalisation Scheme (MSES) was introduced in 2008 in response to a critical shortage of general practitioners servicing a growing community.

Delivered by the City in partnership with Rio Tinto and Woodside, it included subsidised housing for GPs, annual cash travel allowances and a cash loyalty payment for each year of completed service. The medical practices involved provided a minimum requirement of bulk-billed and after hour’s appointments.

Prior to its expiry in December 2018, the scheme contributed to an increased number of GPs servicing the community and reduced waiting times for patients. At the time, the City was serviced by a stable base of GPs and $400,000 was held in the MSES Reserve Fund.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said in recent months the number of doctors servicing the community had declined while rents had increased dramatically.

“Attracting and retaining experienced health professionals to live and work in regional areas is unfortunately a national issue and not unique to our region,” Cr Long said.

“However, Council wants to ensure we’re doing everything we can to remove barriers to quality healthcare for our community.

“Access to health services and the cost of living were identified as the top two priorities in our latest community survey and improvements in these areas are key to Council achieving its vision to become Australia’s most liveable regional city.”

Following consultation with the health sector, Council has allocated $250,000 of MSES Reserve funds to support housing subsidies of up to $300 per week per property for GP’s and clinical practitioners over the next 12 months.

Woodside’s Karratha Gas Plant Manager Breyden Lonnie said Woodside was pleased the reserve funding had been used to support additional GPs in Karratha.

“We’re really proud to be a part of this important community initiative, as access to GPs is key to community wellbeing and supports people’s choice to call Karratha home,” Mr Lonnie said.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s general manager Rail Maintenance Matt Baartz said access to quality healthcare services to support the health and wellbeing of Rio Tinto’s employees and the communities where they operate was important.

“Rio Tinto’s support for this scheme reflects our shared commitment to improve the liveability of the City and we’re pleased to be part of this important initiative,” Mr Baartz said.

Karratha Central Healthcare chief executive officer Beverley Menezes said it was encouraging to see the City, Rio Tinto and Woodside showing strong leadership to promote the fantastic region to the health sector and help make it more affordable for medical staff to relocate to the City of Karratha.

"As a not-for-profit organisation providing a diverse range of allied health services, we understand just how important yet challenging it is to attract and retain medical professionals to our community," she said.

WA/SA Healius Medical Centres general manager Rodney Rudling said with a commitment to supporting quality, affordable and accessible healthcare for all Australians, he was grateful for the GP rental assistance initiative announced by the Karratha City Council.

“This initiative will assist our Karratha Medical Centre in attracting and retaining the best medical expertise to support the businesses and community of Karratha.”