Locum doctor fee rises lead charity to withdraw financial support in five NSW towns – Michmutters

Locum doctor fee rises lead charity to withdraw financial support in five NSW towns

A year or two ago it used to cost just over $1,000 a day for a locum GP to cover while a town’s permanent doctor was on leave. That has now tripled to close to $4,000.

It is this “eye watering” increase that is being blamed on a medical charity withdrawing its financial support to pay for fly-in fly-out doctors in five New South Wales towns.

“It’s a dramatic change, we’re moving from GP locum rates of $1,200 a day up to anywhere between $2,500, $3,500, $3,750 a day,” Rural and Remote Medical Services (RARMS) CEO Mark Burdack said.

“We’re looking in some instances, in some towns, locum rates more than tripling in the last year.”

RARMS has announced that since September 30 it will no longer help pay for locums in Gilgandra, Warren, Bingara, Tenterfield and Braidwood.

The practices in these towns will remain open, but the charity’s decision means they will be saddled with the locum bills.

“We can’t afford to pay locum costs moving forward.

“That means each of the towns, if they lose a general practitioner, if they decide to go, they will potentially be up for anywhere between $2,500 and $3,500 a day to get a locum in.”

The main street of a small town
Bingara in north-west NSW is one of five towns affected by RARMS’s withdrawal.(Supplied: Lisa Herbert)

‘Not in a position to subsidise’

Mr Burdack said the organization had managed to weather the costs for the past few years because of the federal government’s JobKeeper payments.

He said a request for this to be extended was knocked back.

“Unfortunately that’s not something that has been taken up and as a result without that JobKeeper money we’re simply not in a position to subsidize locum coverage in those communities when there’s not a permanent doctor,” he said.

a man looking ahead
RARMS CEO Mark Burdack says negotiations are taking place to help fill the gap left by the charity.(Supplied)

RARMS said permanent doctors in Tenterfield and Braidwood have agreed to take over the full management of those practices.

Mr Burdack said at Bingara, north-west of Tamworth, the local council had stepped in.

decision no surprise

But Gwydir Shire Council Mayor John Coulton said the council was not taking over the Bingara health service and the decision of RARMS came as no surprise.

“We were very suspicious of this happening,” he said.

“We spoke to Mark Burdack in May, he couldn’t give any guarantees they could stay open under the present set-up.

“This is not a function of local government, we are going to do everything we can to facilitate another arrangement.

“We’ve been speaking to different sources that we may be able to use at this stage we have nothing.”

“We had a hook-up yesterday with Gilgandra and Warren, two other councils in the same position, and we’ve been bouncing off each other.”

RARMS says it is negotiating with the Western NSW Local Health District and Western Primary Health Network on future arrangements at Gilgandra and Warren.


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