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Sustaining growth

By Kevin Pittman - posted Wednesday, 26 July 2006

West Moreton is a model of South East Queensland.

Population in West Moreton is growing rapidly and we expect around another 50,000 people by 2010.

Many of them will be from Victoria or NSW and will be in their fifties or will be families with young children - all high end users of medical services.


But Queensland doctor numbers are already low by national standards and are about to get much worse. For example, by 2010, about a third of all current general practitioners in West Moreton will have retired. No one is taking their place to care for the existing population, let alone newcomers. Nurses are equally scarce as are specialists and allied healthcare providers.

Chronic disease, ageing and unconstrained population growth means demand increasingly outstrips a dwindling supply of carers.

In the public sector, there is an increasing edge of hysteria to the self-congratulations of a state government that won’t admit, can’t admit that they can’t adequately staff the public hospital system - despite the clear evidence to the contrary. Government boasts about numbers recruited over the past 12 months while not mentioning those who have resigned in the same period. And now hospitals are being told that it seems all those extra billions of dollars in the budget have gone and hospitals need to rein in their spending.

Will things get better? Probably not. The real problem, of course, common to all Australia, is that we have an ageing society where the supply of young people is less than we need for all the professions and trades in Australia. Engineers, teachers, public servants, carpenters and electricians. They’re all short of people and the young people just aren’t there to train. Things aren’t going to improve quickly, if ever.

So, unless people start bringing their doctors and nurses with them to South East Queensland, they will find it harder and harder to get good health care.

But if soft infrastructure of South East Queensland, such as the health workforce is bad, so is the hard infrastructure.


The Ipswich Motorway, the main route in and out of West Moreton is thought to be the worst and most dangerous major road in Australia. Local politicians seem unable to resolve the issue.

With no new dams built in South East Queensland since the 1980s, water restrictions in West Moreton have gone to bucket watering only. If the next wet season isn’t a very wet one, people will simply have to watch their already stressed gardens and mature trees die.

Power network maintenance, skimped for years so electricity companies could pay the government bigger dividends, is only slowly being brought up to somewhat more reliable but is still inadequate for the population growth.

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About the Author

Kevin Pittman is the principal of Solomon Reynard Pty Ltd, a boutique consultancy specialising in health and organisational management.

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