Breaking the rural doctor drought

A push is under way to build a force of homegrown rural generalist GPs to fill workforce gaps in areas where medical migration and bonded schemes have failed to provide lasting solutions to the problem.

The strategy, to be developed as the first priority for the new Rural Health Commissioner, comes as the government has identified general practice as one of three top areas for future workforce planning, along with anaesthetics and psychiatry.

“Even after 20 years of fiddling around the edges, we still have a maldistribution of workforce,” Dr Ewen McPhee, president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), told The Medical Republic.

“We’ve tried bringing doctors from other countries, both through the 457 (employer-sponsored) and skilled immigration programs, putatively to address the inequities in health and access for rural people.

“Of course, what we are seeing is the same equity and access issues.”

With GPs already in oversupply in urban settings such as western Sydney, and record numbers of medical graduates coming through the university system, it was time to find solutions beyond funnelling more doctors into the system, the Queensland GP said.

“When do we shift from just pumping out numbers to addressing the issues that exist in specific specialties that will never get fixed by themselves?  We need to be responsive to need.”

Dr McPhee said selecting the right trainees would be crucial, favouring candidates with rural backgrounds and “rural intent”.

“We pick the person who wants to serve the needs of a community.  We train them, we groom them, we build them up – very much like what we would like to achieve with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people,” he said… Read More>>

Source: Medical Republic

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