THE Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s (RDAA) annual politicians’ breakfast has underpinned a concerted ongoing push to attract more doctors and enhanced medical and health services, into regional and remote Australia.
Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie said the morning’s breakfast event held at Parliament House in Canberra was the best he’d seen where core issues were lobbied.
He said the strong backing of other ministers and shadow ministers and multiple members of federal parliament at the breakfast briefing showed how important rural health was in eyes of those politicians who represent rural Australia.
Dr Gillespie said the federal government was not giving “false hope” to the RDAA’s current demands on a National Rural Generalist Program and the Coalition had “put money on the table”.
The NSW Nationals MP said the government had also announced an integrated rural training pipeline initiative, and put out to tender 30 regional training hubs throughout the country, where rural clinical schools and university departments of rural health, can “buy-into” the post graduate aspects of a medical practitioners’ education.
“We’ve got many fiscal investments in this space and we’ve got many policy drivers,” he said.
“It’s not going to happen overnight but over time we will get many more medical, dental, nursing and all of the other allied health disciplines, re-distributed away from the metropolitan dominance of where all of our health professionals end up.”
Dr McPhee said he was “very much excited” by the opportunities Dr Gillespie and the federal government had afforded, to help enable a National Rural Generalist Program.
“I think it will be of tremendous benefit to rural patients and rural communities,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that the social capital involved in putting a doctor back in a country town is immense in bridging the gaps, right across rural health.”
Dr Gillespie said rural generalists were doctors trained as general practitioners that also had extra skills to operate in a community and hospital setting.
“That involves not just being a jack of all trades but a well-qualified doctor who can cope with the extra problems with the clinical, public health and hospital skills that you need to look after a regional town,” he said.
He said first task of the National Rural Health Commissioner that’s underpinned by current legislation before the federal Senate would be to help define, expand and mature the rural generalists’ pathway, as part of the integrated rural training pipeline that the federal government had announced.
“It’s great that the rural doctors are here advocating with something that aligns with what the Coalition’s policy is working towards,” he said.
Dr Gillespie said the rural generalist practitioners – some of which also attended the media conference to back the RDAA’s message – worked in community practices but also looked after accident and emergency, mental health, obstetrics and gynaecology, minor surgery and anaesthesia.
“Health care is a complex mosaic of care and we also need more allied health, nursing, midwifery and dentists out in rural Australia,” he said.
“And I in my portfolio, and the Coalition, are totally committed to directing the maldistribution of medical work-force in metropolitan Australia.”