RURAL Medicare loading and the implementation of a National Rural Generalist Pathway remain the big ticket items for turning around a critical maldistribution of doctors in the bush.
There have certainly been some significant investments in the rural health sector since the last election, and the Federal Government is to be commended on this.
To build on this, we now need to implement a National Rural Generalist Pathway that has been under development by the National Rural Health Commissioner, Prof Paul Worley, and funded by the Government.
This Pathway aims to make it easier for medical students and junior doctors to navigate the road to a rural medical career, and to train them in the advanced skills they will need once in the bush.
These skills would not only be the procedural ones like anaesthetics, general surgery, emergency medicine and obstetrics. They would also be in non-procedural areas like advanced mental health, paediatrics, geriatrics, palliative care, and Indigenous healthcare.
There is also an urgent need to implement a rural loading through Medicare that better supports those doctors who are working in the bush, and who are often at a financial disadvantage compared with colleagues who choose a career as a city-based GP or specialist.
Providing a seamless and integrated pathway for young doctors to access the training required to work as a Rural Generalist doctor, and then providing better financial support for rural consultations through Medicare, would make a huge difference in delivering more doctors with advanced skills to the bush.
Importantly, we seek a commitment from all our federal politicians – particularly those within the senior ranks of the parties - to get out to rural and remote areas and see the rural health system in action.
It is critically important that our politicians, particularly those who are city-based, see first-hand how vital these services are and what challenges they face.
Dr Adam Coltzau,
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president
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