A doctor treats a child in a hospital while the child's mother watches on.

Locum doctor costs skyrocket 50pc to $3,500 a day due to shortage

The cost of a short-term locum doctor contract has increased 50 per cent in a year, according to rural doctors.

Locum contracts are being offered at $3,500 a day in Launceston, $3,000 a day in Bathurst and Mount Gambier, and $280 an hour in Broken Hill.

Karyn Matterson works locum contracts around the country and so far this year has worked from Clermont in Queensland to Collarenebri and Corowa in New South Wales, and from Tasmania to Palm Island off Townsville.

“Locum doctors, both in the city and in the bush are in high demand,” Dr Matterson said.

“It’s increased exponentially as the general practitioner shortage has become more visible across Australia.”

Dr Matterson saw a connection between the decreasing Medicare rebates for GP appointments in real terms and the increase in the need for locums, as GP clinics around the country struggled to find staff.

“That is putting pressure on emergency departments across Australia because we’re seeing a lot more GP-type presentations in hospitals,” she said.

“The people who are presenting are actually sicker than what we’ve seen in primary health care in the past because they can’t get into doctors.”

‘Problem will get worse’ without reform, says doctor

The Royal Australian College of GPs said the cost of Medicare rebates for most GP appointments had risen by 1.6 per cent.

That’s well short of the most recent inflation figure of 6.1 per cent.

Dr Matt Masel predicts the rural doctor shortage will only get worse.(Supplied: Dr Matt Masel)

Matt Masel, president of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland, said it reflected a lack of longer-term planning over time.

Dr Masel is a partner in a GP practice in Goondiwindi, almost 300 kilometers south-west of Brisbane. He said the increasing cost of locums was a sign the health system was not working.

“We’re seeing doctors coming out of medical schools where 50 per cent used to choose general practice and only about 15 per cent do now,” he said.

“That means this problem is only going to be worse in a few years’ time unless we really make those choices to go into general practice and rural practice more attractive.”

Dr Masel said the increasing cost of locums would put it out of reach for many GP clinics in the bush.

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