Southlakes Medical Group calls for change to health policy forcing overseas-trained doctors to leave Lake Macquarie

CLOSED: The surgery operated by Southlakes Medical Group in French Road, Wangi Wangi. Picture: David Stewart
CLOSED: The surgery operated by Southlakes Medical Group in French Road, Wangi Wangi. Picture: David Stewart

SOUTHLAKES Medical Group says a federal health policy was the catalyst for it closing its general practice surgery in Wangi Wangi.

Dr Kai Zhang had been practicing at the Wangi Wangi surgery, in French Road, in the months since the retirement of Dr Adrian Graham.

Southlakes Medical Group owner Dr Vinh Dao said federal government rules relating to overseas-trained doctors meant that Dr Zhang could no longer work in Wangi Wangi.

“Essentially, we now don’t have the doctors to service the Wangi surgery,” Dr Dao said.

“Because Dr Zhang was trained internationally, his Medicare provider number only lasts for two years, and that time is up.

“We’ve written to Medicare and to the Health Minister hoping to extend that a bit, but that hasn’t been allowed.”

Medicare provider numbers allow doctors to access Medicare rebates.

Patients who see doctors who don’t have a provider number will remain out-of-pocket for the full consultation fee.

The policy is aimed at encouraging overseas-trained doctors to work in rural and remote areas of Australia where there is an acute shortage of doctors.

Dr Dao said the policy needed to be reworked, as Southlakes Medical Group had lost five doctors in five years under the scheme.

“It’s just not working out. We’re getting fed up with training the doctors because this policy means they end up disappearing,” Dr Dao said.

He favoured a system where a provider number was allocated to a practice to issue to a doctor to work where needed. He said it would have made sense for Dr Graham's provider number to be issued to Dr Zhang after Dr Graham retired.

Related reading

Comments