Queensland town offers $500k and house to fill job of town doctor

More than $500,000 and a free house haven’t been enough to attract a doctor to a small town in rural far-north Queensland, leaving residents forced to drive two hours to receive treatment.

McKinlay Shire Council in Julia Creek – 600 km west of Townsville – has offered an enviable package for a GP looking for a tree change in their tight-knit community.

The job includes a salary of up to $513,620 and a rent-free house on a decent-sized block of land, but no doctors have taken up the call yet.

Temporary doctors have been flying in for two days a week to help support the small healthcare staff at the local hospital.

If a local needs to see a GP on the other five days of the week, they need to make a 200km or two-hour trip to Mount Isa.

Deputy Mayor Janene Fegan told NCA NewsWire the jaw-dropping salary package was offered up three months ago, but they’ve been looking for a permanent GP for around 18 months.

“It’s not only about the money, it’s also about the lifestyle,” she said.

A nurse by trade, Ms Fegan moved to Julia Creek for a three-month posting almost three decades ago and never left.

“It’s just a nice, easy, simple lifestyle,” she said.

“We have plenty of room, plenty of space.”

In April, the town is host to the Dirt N Dust Festival, featuring bull riding and live music.

“We have wonderful events here; there’s never a dull moment, you could go somewhere every weekend,” Ms Fegan said.

“You don’t have to book a hotel, you can just put a swag in the back of the car.”

Julia Creek is home to a tight-knit community of just 500 residents.

According to Ms Fegan, it boasts warm sunny days, a gym which costs $30 a month and a swimming pool which sets you back just $2 to use.

The council has received two applicants for the role, but both requested a fly-in, fly-out arrangement.

Locals are desperate for the return of a permanent doctor to provide some stability and – more pressingly – to provide urgent care when it’s needed.

“If you had a sick child in the middle of the night, they might have to send you on,” she said.

“And some things aren’t quite serious enough to need an ambulance, but serious enough that you want care quickly.”

Ms Fegan said the community has gotten by without a doctor through the sheer good will of neighbours.

“I guess that’s why we’ve survived so long without the doctor, because we are such a tight-knit community and someone will also help someone else out,” she said.

The council has also committed to providing the new GP’s partner with employment should they desire it.

“We would definitely make all our effort to find something suitable,” Ms Fegan said.

“And also with the internet, you don’t need to work in the city anymore.”

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