Mental health round table reveals Port Stephens is crying out for doctors

SERVICES STRESSED: Port Stephens MP Kate Washington hosted a mental health community stakeholder round table with services, GPs and support organisations in Raymond Terrace on November 13.
SERVICES STRESSED: Port Stephens MP Kate Washington hosted a mental health community stakeholder round table with services, GPs and support organisations in Raymond Terrace on November 13.

A "desperate need" for more doctors in Port Stephens was was one the key issues raised during discussions between the area's mental health providers, care services, GPs and state MP Kate Washington last Friday.

The mental health round table hosted in Raymond Terrace gave the Port's services such as Tomaree Neighbourhood Centre and Caring for Our Port Stephens Youth, GPs from Nelson Bay and Tanilba Bay and representatives from the Teacher's Federation and Interrelate an opportunity to discuss the pressures each are currently under with Ms Washington and the Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Tara Moriarty MLC.

"It's important for everyone to understand the stresses on the system everywhere," Ms Washington said.

"The big message to me is that every area is under stress and there is desperate need for additional resourcing.

"There's a desperate need for the government to do more now for us here. What has come out of [the discussions] also helps Tara and I understand what we need to do in terms of policy development going forward.

"My immediate focus is trying to address the crisis in our GP services and changing our designation to an area of need."

Michelle Hudson and Donna White from Providence Medical and Melissa Murphy from Nelson Bay Plaza Clinic spoke of the overwhelming pressure on Tomaree GP services amidst the pandemic, particularly in the area of mental health.

Yacaaba Centre manager Petra Offen and counselor Louise Simpson further highlighted the need for greater mental health support for the area as more people with complex needs, beyond the scope of the counselling service the Nelson Bay centre provides, turned to them for help.

Dr Marie Sheih from Tanilba Bay Medical Centre, which is designated as an area of need for GPs when other parts of Port Stephens are not, painted a different picture - one of being able to cope with patient needs due to its resourcing.

"Tanilba is a little spot designated as an area of need and have lots of GPs but in places like Nelson Bay, which is not a designated area of need, the clinics can't attract or keep GPs. We've got a number of GPs in the area who are at retirement age as well, just to add to the stress," Ms Washington said.

Paterson MP Meryl Swanson has raised the need to change the Port's GP designation in parliament. Ms Washington has written to health minister Greg Hunt.

Ms Moriarty said the Port's lack of doctors was an "urgent issue".

"It's our last sitting week for this year [this week]. I intend to raise the issues I've heard here in parliament, directly with the government," she said.

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