Another medical clinic is to close in the Sunshine Coast and Gympie regions as the GP crisis deepens and politicians delay any decisions to fix the health system.
Patients at Imbil Family Medical in the Mary Valley were informed by text message on Wednesday that the clinic will permanently shut on February 17.
It will be the third GP clinic to lock its doors in the region in five months, following closures in Nambour and Pomona.
The centre's doctors are being relocated to Gympie and patients wishing to continue seeing them now face a one-hour round trip.
Lack of consultation criticised
Mary Valley Chamber of Commerce president Janelle Parker said the loss of the area's only GP clinic would have a huge impact, especially on older people.
"In the Mary Valley here we don't have a public transport system to get people to other areas."
Ms Parker said she was angry the company that owned the clinic did not consult the community beforehand and people could afford to pay more if it meant keeping their primary health service.
Patients have been told they would be given priority if they travelled to Gympie to see their doctors to see them.
"That's little comfort if it's a challenge for patients to get to there ... We had people from north of Gympie coming here because they couldn't get appointments there."
Clinic 'not viable'
Owners of Brisbane-based company DoctorLink, which owns the clinic, said they had "agonised" over the closure for two years.
Managing director Damien Kiely said the practice was running at a loss due to rising equipment costs and blamed the inadequacy of the Medicare rebate, which has not kept up with inflation for many years.
"I hate being the person delivering this message, but I don't know what else to do," he said.
"I wish … the residents of those communities nothing but kindness and good health.
"We don't want to be a villain. If we could make the business run at break-even costs [we would stay open] … but at the end of the day it's not viable."
DoctorLink also closed its clinic at Pomona in December, and runs GP practices at Cooroy, Gympie, and Bundaberg.
Mr Kiely said there were no concerns about the viability of these clinics.
He said he was aware of the "devastation" the decisions had levelled on the Pomona and Imbil communities.
He also pointed to the storm around the Queensland Revenue Office imposing payroll tax on general practitioners.
'It's just wrong'
Richard Rota, who owns Imbil Pharmacy, said the clinic's closure was "totally incomprehensible" because it was always busy.
"They're flat out like lizards drinking, the population is growing – what more can a business want?
"They're literally stripping the assets out of these medical centres.
"These same people have done the same thing to Pomona — pushing them to Cooroy, now pushing these patients to Gympie.
"It's just wrong ... I really have an issue with these guys."
Government pledges to do more
Premiers and chief ministers met the Prime Minister in Canberra on Friday to demand more federal funding for the health system, amid warnings it is broken and needs urgent repair.
But leaders delayed making any decisions, opting to wait until later in the year to decide how governments will address the strained sector.
A spokesperson for federal Health Minister Mark Butler said they were only made aware of the Imbil clinic closure on Thursday and had instructed the department to work with the local health bodies to "find solutions for access to GP services for people in Imbil".
"The government is greatly concerned about the closure of general practices, particularly in regional areas, and the increasing difficulty in accessing GP services," the spokesperson said.
"General practices are private businesses that make their own decisions about opening and closing."
System needs more funding: RACGP
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is warning rural and regional clinics will continue to close due to "under funding" of primary care and a shortage of doctors.
The college's rural chairman doctor Michael Clements said the closure would have a ripple effect on communities, with residents delaying seeing a GP and then having preventable conditions.
"What that means is that somebody with high blood pressure perhaps didn't have it detected before their first heart attack," he said.
"That people didn't come in and get their cholesterol or sugar checked and so we didn't pick up their diabetes early before they started to have complications and strokes.
Dr Clements said a clinic was not necessarily profitable just because it was busy.
"They need to generate revenue and what we've seen with Medicare being year after year less than inflation, we have to increase more and more the number of people coming through the door," he said.
"But there is a limit and there is only so many people a doctor can see each day before we still aren't making enough to keep the doors open."