There doesn’t seem to be any solution in sight for a blow-out in wait times for medical appointments in Margaret River – amid suggestions efforts to help have actually contributed to the problem. A stream of local medicos have left public practice since the WA Country Health Service brokered a new agreement that included full-time doctors at Margaret River Hospital. The most recent WACHS-brokered agreement moved to address serious concerns about staffing and availability at the campus which is under growing pressure due to increasing resident numbers as well as the region’s tourism popularity. However, the Times understands the hospital has created even more work for itself due to a shortage of GPs in private practice meaning residents with urgent medical needs are attending the campus rather than wait more than a week for private appointments. Despite that, a Margaret River Hospital spokesperson said the latest figures showed only a three per cent increase in presentations, while registering a seven per cent reduction in non-urgent attendances. Details about the agreement with doctors that came into effect last year was confidential, but related to confirmed 24-hour medical coverage at the site. “To make sure we’re responsive to any increase in demand, we closely monitor activity and have the ability to flex up and down as required,” the spokesperson said. Local GPs, who asked not to be identified, said it was difficult to attract private doctors when competing with State Government salaries. While they recognised the irony of the situation – GPs had spoken up about the previous lack of adequate emergency rostering as well as the need to expand the hospital campus – clinics were seeing increasingly irate clients frustrated by wait times. Brecken Health doctor Brenda Murrison confirmed appointment times at its newly-acquired Margaret River Medical Centre had increased. “Appointment times have blown out, and yes, GP practices locally have lost some consulting time to the permanent staffing by WACHS of the hospital,” Dr Murrison said. “This of course only really caters to urgent care and not to routine care.” However, there were many factors informing the GP shortage including unwieldy international recruitment processes as well as veteran doctors retiring. Dr Murrison also noted local clinics were under more pressure due to population growth seen since the start of the pandemic. A Federal Health Department spokesperson said States were responsible for hospital doctor recruitment and shortages and wait-list times were hard to gauge due to inadequate data as well as the independence of private practices. Dr Murrison noted Australia’s international recruitment regime was more lengthy and expensive than destinations such as Canada and New Zealand. “The other horrendous issue is once here in Australia, they can wait for many months for the system to process there provider number to bill medical care,” Dr Murrison said. At the same time, many practices were under financial pressure. Cost margins were thin, the GP noted, and Medicare funding had not kept pace with health inflation.