Simon Quilty thought long and hard before he bought his house in Alice Springs — but not because he didn’t want to stay in Central Australia.
- A survey reveals 19 per cent of doctors in the NT are “likely” to leave because of climate change
- Dr Simon Quilty says it could create a crisis in the health profession
- He says the NT should act now to try and find ways to deal with the rising temperature
The medical doctor and ANU researcher said his concern was how climate change could affect house values in the Red Centre.
“There’s a very palpable sense that the weather is indeed getting hotter, it’s a very real and lived experience … because of that, staying here at all – let alone buying real estate here – may not be wise,” Dr Quilty said.
“I’ve had many conversations, poolside or over the dinner table, with colleagues who are talking about leaving the Northern Territory and invariably it comes back to their concerns about climate change.”
According to Dr Quilty’s research, published the Lancet Planetary Health today, many doctors in the NT are grappling with the same question and up to 35 per cent are considering leaving as a result.
Dr Quilty and a team of researchers from ANU surveyed 362 doctors in the NT – more than a quarter of all registered doctors in the Territory – and found that that 19 per cent said they were “likely to leave” the NT as a result of climate warming.
An additional 15 per cent said they were “considering” leaving for the same reason.
According to CSIRO modelling Alice Springs will experience up to 160 days a year over 35 degrees Celsius, and up to 70 days above 40C, if climate change is not addressed.
Between 1981 and 2010, the town experienced an average of 90 days over 35C and 14 days above 40C.
Dr Quilty said he believed there were a number of reasons the rising temperatures were encouraging doctors to leave.
“It’s a combination of a lot of factors — real estate value … a recognition that their children may not be able to play as much sport on hot weekends, the camping seasons that a lot of people move to the NT are shortening,” he said.
“It’s a lot about lifestyle.
“Many doctors in the Territory also have family elsewhere in a place they consider their home state, so there’s already a pull from them to leave and climate change can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back”
La vida locum
Dr Quilty said the projected gap in the workforce was likely to disproportionately affect health workers in remote areas.
He pointed to the community of Katherine, which has struggled to recruit doctors for years.
“It’s very complex — it’s already really challenging recruiting doctors in the NT at a baseline,” Dr Quilty said.
“If it’s not dealt with, then not having enough doctors for remote clinics, towns not being able to recruit general practitioners will be a serious problem.”
Dr Quilty said locum doctors who worked on short-term contracts were not going to be enough to meet the shortfall.
“People from the bush don’t like a fly-in, fly-out workforce in any context,” he said.
He said Central Australia could view this challenge as an opportunity to innovate.
“The NT is going to experience unprecedented heat before any other state in Australia, so we have the opportunity to learn how to do it really well,” he said.
“I’m a Territorian — I’m deeply dedicated to Territory.
“For me, being a house in Alice Springs was a commitment to my future.
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