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Seachanging GP says country life is better

COFFS Harbour's newest general practitioner is evidence the seachange lifestyle may help combat the shortage of doctors in our region.

Dr Tapan Patel recently set up shop at the BAMS Medical Centre in Albany Street, offering five and a half days of bulk-billed practice.

Originally from India where he had his own general practice, Dr Patel has been in Sydney since 2005 working in the emergency department at Bankstown.

And while he enjoyed the work, the stress was taking its toll.

“There's definitely a stress factor involved with working all hours, and my social and family life was suffering,” Dr Patel said.

That made it easier for him, wife Vdita and four-year-old daughter Tvisha to make the move to the Coffs Coast.

“I am a seachanger,” the affable doctor joked.

“Back in Sydney I was travelling 60km a day to and from work, spending two hours in transit and quite literally losing time.

“Here in Coffs Harbour I have two more hours to enjoy life, everything is near and I can go home at lunch to spend time with my family.”

Swapping the hectic schedule of a metro doctor for the more relaxed life of a regional GP could be a way of attracting and retaining doctors to the Coffs Coast, given the nation-wide shortage of doctors currently being experienced.

The recent Country Week Expo in Sydney had a theme of 'Live and Work in Regional NSW', and more than 700 jobs in regional areas were showcased in an attempt to lure Sydney-siders out of the city.

A key message was that there is 'a better life out there in country NSW'.

But even the benefits of a seachange may not be enough, given the funding rural and regional areas receive in health care.

Mid North Coast Division of General Practice Chief Executive Officer Peter Spence said our region has a GP to population ratio of half what they have in urban areas, due to funding.

“In health spending per capita, rural and regional areas are short changed between $5 million and $8 million per annum,” Mr Spence said.

“If this issue was addressed, we may see a big change in the workforce.”

Whatever the case, when Dr Patel isn't treating patients, he's living the seachange life, picking up daughter Tvisha from the nearby pre-school and heading home in time for dinner with wife Vdita.

“Life is different here,” Dr Patel said.

“It's better.”



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