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INEQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF GENERAL PRACTITIONERS IN AUSTRALIA: ANALYSIS BY STATE AND TERRITORY USING CENSUS DATA

Authors

  • David Wilkinson

    1. South Australian Centre for Rural and Remote Health, The University of Adelaide and The University of South Australia, Whyalla and Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
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  • This study was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

Correspondence: ProfessorDavidWilkinson SACRRH, c/- University of South Australia (Whyalla Campus), Nicolson Avenue, Whyalla Norrie, SA 5608, Australia. Email: david.wilkinson@unisa.edu.au

ABSTRACT

The objective of this study was to describe the distribution of general practitioners in each State and Territory, stratified by statistical division and adjusted for estimated community need. The location of general practitioners was obtained from the 1996 Census of Population and Housing. Community need was estimated from crude death rates supplied by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. On average there are 920 people per full-time general practitioner in Australia. Three States are relatively oversupplied by up to 5% (Australian Capital Territory) and the rest are relatively undersupplied by up to 12% (Western Australia). Adjusted for estimated need, the Australian Capital Territory is oversupplied by 71% compared with all of Australia, while Western Australia is undersupplied by 15%. More marked differences occur within the States, with the statistical division containing each capital city in each State that is relatively overserved. The greatest oversupply is in Sydney, where 33% fewer people share a full-time general practitioner than the whole of New South Wales (adjusted for need, oversupply in Sydney is 63%). Relative undersupply is greatest in Queensland, with 133% more people sharing each general practitioner in the north-west statistical division compared with the whole State. The distribution of general practitioners between and within States and Territories is unequal and inequitable. In each State, capital cities tend to be relatively oversupplied compared with more rural areas. While these data do not inform the absolute level of service needed in a community, they do suggest that strategies to redress the inequitable distribution are required.

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