The crippling effects of the GP shortage will be highlighted at a public forum in Merewether, amid concerns about doctors being burnt out and a system "on the verge of collapse".
The Newcastle Institute will host the forum, titled "GP Crisis - Need for Fundamental Reform" on Wednesday night.
A panel of speakers will discuss the effects of the crisis on patients, families, GPs, primary health care staff and the hospital system.
The latest data shows the Hunter Region and Mid Coast area had 835 GPs this month. Last July, 1809 GPs were operating in the wider Hunter-New England and Central Coast areas.
Dr Lee Fong, Hunter General Practitioners Association secretary, said the GP workforce was declining due to ageing doctors, while younger graduates were "doing less hours" than their predecessors.
Population rises in particular areas had increased demand for GPs, with Dr Fong citing Maitland as one example.
While people in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland find it hard to book a GP appointment promptly, those in more remote areas struggle to get any appointments close to home.
Cessnock, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Murrurundi, Merriwa, Scone and Denman were among 60 areas identified in NSW last year as being at risk of critical doctor shortages.
Among the speakers at the forum will be Dr Fiona Van Leeuwen, chair of the Hunter General Practitioners Association.
Dr Van Leeuwen told the Newcastle Herald that "the time is right for turning healthcare upside down".
"We need to change the way we think about medicine. All medical practitioners need to work together in a group to support patient journeys," she said.
"And everybody within that system, having come from the same pool of medical undergraduates, needs to be provided with professional support and opportunities that are attractive and appealing."
This includes salaries that match "the quality, level, intensity and difficulty of care provided".
The Australian Medical Association [AMA] has forecast an undersupply of about 10,600 GPs across the country by 2031-32.
Research also shows that medical graduates are increasingly choosing to become specialists, rather than GPs.
The prestige of general practice has decreased among medical students, an AMA report released last November stated.
The report, titled "The general practitioner workforce: why the neglect must end" said there was a "disparity in remuneration between GP registrars compared to their hospital counterparts".
Yet there is also a shortage of specialists in regions like the Hunter, while cities like Sydney have a good supply.
This lack of GPs in the Hunter has coincided with rising demand for their services, given the spike in chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, the ageing population and a rise in people with comorbidities.
The AMA has called for Medicare rebates, which help cover GP salaries and costs, to be doubled.
From 1995 to 2022, successive federal governments increased Medicare rebates by an average of 1.1 per cent a year, well below the rising costs of running GP clinics.
Dr Van Leeuwen says deeper reform is needed.
"The underlying structure of Medicare fails to support modern general practice and primary care," she said.
Dr Ross Kerridge, a Newcastle Institute spokesperson, said "the GP system as we know it is on the verge of collapse".
"Patients have difficulty in accessing timely and affordable primary health care, with no bulk-billing general practices in Newcastle," Dr Kerridge said.
"GPs are burnt out and retention of staff in general practice is challenging. These challenges are even greater in rural and remote areas."
The forum will run from 6pm to 7.30pm on Wednesday at Souths Leagues Club in Merewether.
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