The Department of Health has revealed in a Senate Estimates hearing that only $2000 of the $100,000 promised to the Peninsula GP Committee has been used by the committee.
The Department also confirmed that the $2000 was spent on “meeting fees”. The detail was revealed during the Senate hearing on May 30 when Senator Deborah O’Neill put further questions to the Department of Health. “In 12 months, not a cent of the $100,000 has been used to recruit a single GP to the Peninsula,” she said. An earlier statement provided by the Health Department, published in Peninsula News, indicated that the Primary Health Network had decided to allocate the rest of money to address “the additional needs” of the wider Primary Health Network area, which stretches to the Queensland border. When asked if the Department of Health could guarantee that the remaining $98,000 would be spent to fix the GP crisis, a department official responded that it could not.
The Department also admitted that the promised $100,000 was not additional funding but instead had been shifted and reallocated from the local Primary Health Network’s core budget. In answers to Questions on Notice, the Department also confirmed that the Committee had only met four times and stopped meeting in August last year. Senator O’Neill said: “The Department of Health confirmed that Ms Wicks and the Turnbull Government’s $100,000 funding to fix the Peninsula GP crisis was a lie. “In 12 months, not a cent of the $100,000 has been used to recruit a single GP to the Peninsula. “Instead $2000 was spent on meeting costs of the Committee established to fix the crisis.” Senator O’Neill said there was no direct link between an increase in GP numbers and any work done by the committee.
In addition to questions asked during Senate Estimates, Senator O’Neill has also placed a list of almost 50 further questions on notice to be answered by the Health Department. Senator O’Neill said: “The Status Report makes reference to four additional registrars and their commencement of training.” She asked: “How did the work of the committee directly result in the recruitment of these GPs? “How did the work of the committee directly relate to the training of these four registrars? “Were these registrars already working at practices on the Peninsula? “Is there requirement that these four GP registrars will remain on the Peninsula once their training has completed?
“How many GPs have retired from Peninsula practices since the announcement of the committee in May 2017? “Since the Committee’s establishment has any recruitment agency working with the Committee successfully recruited a new GP with a placement on the Peninsula?” Senator O’Neill said: “According to the statement released by the Department of Health, residents in and around the Peninsula will have noticed improved access to GPs as a result of the work of the Hunter New England Primary Health Network Peninsula Workforce Committee. “Can the Department or the Network submit any evidence that this statement is correct? “Was there a survey undertaken of Peninsula residents to determine the effectiveness of the committee? “When will the committee survey feedback from primary health providers, participants or local constituents about the working group and its outcomes?”
SOURCE: Media release, May 30 Questions on notice, May 29 Rhys Zorro, Office of Deborah O’Neill