The push for mining companies to pay more for regional health services is growing.
Former Central Queensland politician Jim Pearce has thrown his support behind Queensland Australian Medical Association (AMA) head Dr. Richard Kidd and his calls to increase mining companies’ levies, the Central Queensland News reports.
Kidd stated that FIFO miners put a strain on health services in mining towns, and that this is only likely to increase.
He went on to say that doctors in Moranbah found that at least 25% of their patients were fly in fly out miners.
Two Moranbah doctors, Johann Scholtz and Reyno Nieuwoudt also presented an application to a federal parliamentary inquiry into FIFO stating that the miners are straining medical services and brining diseases into the community.
In their application to the federal parliamentary inquiry into FIFO work doctors Johann Scholtz and Reyno Nieuwoudt said it was wrong to assume the FIFO influx did not affect local medical services.
“Continuing to mistakenly assert that non-resident workers do not place pressure on health care and other essential services is dangerous and short sighted in the extreme,” they said.
Scholtz and Nieuwoudt are medical superintendent and senior medical officer respectively at Moranbah Hospital and co-own the Moranbah medical practice.
They said one in four patients treated at Moranbah was from outside the community.
In June, the hospital treated 1578 patients from Moranbah, 135 from Clermont, 39 from Dysart and 516 non-residents.
They said the influx was starting to hamper their efforts to treat locals.
“Of late with our GP shortage and the influx of many new patients, our regular patients have to wait longer for appointments and we are no longer able to offer same day service as we have been able to in the past,” they said.
They said the living conditions of FIFO workers made them bring in diseases from other locations and spread them quicker.
“A further impact of the travel associated with non-resident mobile shift workers relates to the quick spread of diseases and viruses from far afield,” they said.
A recent KPMG survey supports their comments, noting that there is a growing population imbalance in mining towns.
The analysis said there was a need for 44 extra doctors and 235 nurses in regional areas to meet the new population imbalance.
Pearce applauded Kidd’s stance, adding that his proposed FIFO/DIDO levy would provide some degree of funding to solve this issue.
Late last year, Pearce called for a $20 per miner per week tax on each FIFO worker.
"Only a fool would argue that thousands of commuting workers are not having a demoralising impact on the quality of life for permanent residents," Pearce said.
"We have to be creative in our thinking if we are to lift the coal towns out of the doldrums."
However, Pearce qualified that he did not want all miners to pay the tax, only FIFO and DIDO workers.
Pearce believes that the tax would raise about $20 million annually.