Demand outstrips supply, a prescription for trouble

THE Kildare Road Medical Centre in Blacktown is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm and receives a constant stream of patients.

THE Kildare Road Medical Centre in Blacktown is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm and receives a constant stream of patients.

The centre, which opened two years ago, employs 16 GPs working alongside nurses, dietitians and allied health professionals focused on addressing chronic disease, in particular diabetes.

The chief executive of the centre, Peter Rushton, said demand had always outstripped supply in Blacktown, Sydney's fastest-growing city.

"It's been busy since it opened," he said. "We can't meet the demand, to be perfectly frank. We run a specific diabetes clinic which is nurse-led to help manage our diabetic patients but we can't keep up with demand. Although it's nurse-led you have to have doctors supporting that."

What was constraining the centre's work, Mr Rushton said, was an inability to get enough GPs into the practice to expand its work.

"We have brought eight new GPs to Blacktown to work in our practice but we still can't meet the demand."

Long hours are par for the course for Dr Hani Bittar, who has been working in Sydney's west for more than two decades. "There is no doubt working in Mount Druitt, we have a huge population and a huge amount of work," Dr Bittar said.

Dr Bittar, the president of the Mount Druitt Medical Practitioners Association, said it was difficult to attract young GPs to the area and more than half the present workforce was nearing retirement age.

Workforce shortages do not exist just among GPs, with hospital specialists also in demand, according to the Campbelltown Hospital paediatrician Dr Mike Freelander, who has worked in greater western Sydney for 30 years.

"Not only is the area already under-resourced in terms of healthcare services across the board, it is an area of population growth," he said "The area is constantly trying to play catch-up. Even when health resources increase, we are still behind the eight-ball."

The situation is challenging for both medical professionals and their patients.

"There are long waiting lists for patients who want to see me or any other specialist at the hospital," Dr Freelander said.

"People do get frustrated and we get frustrated because we are not able to provide the help they need. Families feel that there is no one out there to help them. They feel as if no one is listening to their concerns," he said.

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