For Kenilworth resident Al Beausang, Dr Siobhan MacDonald is a “godsend” but he is worried that only one doctor in town is not enough. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
For Kenilworth resident Al Beausang, Dr Siobhan MacDonald is a “godsend” but he is worried that only one doctor in town is not enough. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

‘I NEED HELP’: Desperate town cries out for permanent doctor

TIRED, overworked and alone is how a Kenilworth doctor spends her days as she treats "3000 people" in a town desperate for more medical practitioners.

For several years, the hinterland town had been without a doctor until Dr Siobhan MacDonald answered the SOS two years ago.

Dr MacDonald operates out of GP Care on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week but on Tuesdays and Thursdays is back in her original practice in Maroochydore.

>> DEVELOPMENT THAT COULD SOLVE TOWN'S LONG HEALTH WOES

She sees up to 28 people per day in a centre that's "always busy" and has to shut down whenever she takes holidays.

"I'd love some help," Dr MacDonald sighed.

"People get nervous and stressed when there is no doctor here or if I want to go on holidays.

"I'd love to be able to service the town five days a week rather than three, it would make a real difference to people's lives."

Dr Siobhan MacDonald is the only GP in Kenilworth operating out of an old building and struggles to keep up with the demand.
Dr Siobhan MacDonald is the only GP in Kenilworth operating out of an old building and struggles to keep up with the demand.

Sunshine Coast PHN's senior manager Robb Major said guidelines from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommended one full-time equivalent general practitioner per 900 people.

At the most recent census, in 2016, Kenilworth's recorded population was 558 and Mr Major argued the support was "adequate".

For 88-year-old Al Beausang, a man who has lived in Kenilworth for 38 years, and 50 in Conondale before that, having a doctor in town was his saviour.

Mr Beausang lost his left leg to a blood clot in December 2018 and is confined to a wheelchair.

He employs a carer and has his children to assist, but without the services of Dr MacDonald, he'd be forced to go to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital for treatment.

"It's a good hour there, which really adds up, now I can just be pushed up the road," the former Kenilworth Bowls Club president said.

"There's no public transport for us older residents, it's really hard but we make do."

Mrs Beausang said it was concerning should something happen to him on a day Dr MacDonald wasn't working.

His carer, Kelly Circosta, said a full-time doctor would be "lovely" to have five days per week.

"People don't just get sick on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays," Ms Circosta said.

"You'd have to call the ambulance or go to Nambour."

Kenilworth resident and Chamber of Commerce secretary Sue McMah is worried that one part-time doctor in town is not enough. Photo: John McCutcheon
Kenilworth resident and Chamber of Commerce secretary Sue McMah is worried that one part-time doctor in town is not enough. Photo: John McCutcheon

Long-time resident Sue McMah who runs West'n Colour on the main drag and also acts as secretary for the Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce, said the town was crying out for a permanent doctor.

She said if something did go wrong, people had to rely on the "busy" ambulance station who catered for the entire Mary Valley region.

Ms McMah said the town was fortunate to benefit from the dedication of Dr MacDonald and said she was a "godsend" for people like Mr Beausang.

But the summer months and school holidays was when people were most in the lurch, she said.

Should Kenilworth residents have access to more medical providers?

This poll ended on 10 February 2020.

Current Results

Yes, there should be an initiative for doctors to move there.

74%

No, they don't have to drive far.

20%

I'm not sure.

5%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"On the days Dr MacDonald isn't here, or on holidays, I regularly have people coming in asking where she is," she said.

"And she is tired. She struggles to keep up with the demand, anyone would. We are getting busier and busier and during holiday time this area swells with campers.

"Up to 4000 people here during holiday seasons who could potentially be without medical services. It's not good enough."

Mr Major pointed to nearby practices in Mapleton and Cooroy and the pharmacy that could help the community.

"Kenilworth is fortunate to have a highly engaged pharmacist in Rick Rota, who also owns a pharmacy in Imbil, who works closely with GPs in the region," he said.

"Regional GP workforce continues to be an issue across Australia, and as a PHN we recognise it as a priority that we continue to address."