AS GP services struggle to respond to increased demand across the Bendigo region, the Labor party has announced it will invest an extra $920 million to strengthen primary health services across the country.
Less than a week out from the May 21 federal election and with the latest Newspoll tipping a Labor majority win, local MP's are throwing everything at their electorates.
At a press conference on Monday, federal Labor member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters addressed the GP shortage in the region.
"Across the Bendigo electorate, many people have raised how it's getting more and more difficult to see a doctor and allied health specialists," she said.
"Some are waiting up to 6 weeks to get an appointment with their family doctor, others can't find a GP as practices are telling them their books are closed.
"Others have told me they can't afford to pay gap-fees so they simply don't book appointments to get the care they need, and instead live with consequences."
Labor's health investment will see $750 million over the forward estimates to the Strengthening Medicare Fund which is promised to deliver greater GP access, greater patient affordability and further investment into chronic illnesses.
Smaller GP's will be able to access $25,000 and larger GPs $50,000 in order to upgrade their facilities by upskilling staff and purchasing new equipment.
BCHS executive leader Graem Kelly said the health service welcomed the Labor announcements.
"Any assistance put out there to help GP's and Primary Health Care generally, is greatly appreciated," he said.
"If we're committed to being a universal health care system, it needs to support access for everybody."
Mr Kelly said attracting and retaining doctors in regional areas is vital to the success of Medicare.
"It's about lifestyle, it's about the challenges of turnover, challenges of retirement. There's a whole lot of challenges," he said.
Across the three BCHS sites, Mr Kelly said they had lost six local GPs.
The health service said they were trying to fill the gaps with doctors from overseas but the service was feeling the strain.
"There's a lot of stress on all levels, it's a multi level system, GP's don't stand alone," he said.
"There's nurses, there's allied health, and of course, even the reception staff that take the brunt of complaints and arguments.
"The whole system is stressed."
Mr Kelly said both sides of government need to commit to addressing the shortages in the region.
"But there needs to be a significant investment, assistance, support and review as to where the future lies and future directions we need to go," he said.
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