THE federal government will develop a national framework to increase doctor numbers in regional areas.
The Collingrove Agreement involves the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine building a framework for a rural generalist pathway for doctors.
National Rural Health Commissioner Paul Worley will lead a Rural Generalist Pathway Taskforce to ensure rural health service representatives have input in the pathway, which is designed to provide training, recognition and appropriate remuneration for doctors working outside major cities.
Professor Paul Worley announced the landmark agreement at a rural and regional health forum in Canberra.
Member for Mallee Andrew Broad said the agreement could not have come at a better time.
The Wimmera has a number of doctor vacancies including in Horsham, Ararat, Stawell, Nhill and Edenhope. Some of these positions have been unfilled for two years.
“In regional Australia we are struggling – our patch needs more doctors who want to practice in our regional towns,” Mr Broad.
“It’s fantastic to see a long-term solution come to light.
“Our medical workforce shortage issues need to be addressed, and this is a great step to creating a long lasting list of rural practitioners.
“Being a doctor in our patch is very different to a role in the city. From live-saving surgeries to accidents on our roads, we recognise that rural doctors require an advanced skill set. This is where the Rural Generalist Pathway will play a key role.”
Professor Worley said the Collingrove Agreement was the crucial first step in developing a National Rural Generalist Pathway.
“The two colleges agree on our goal, and they bring their combined strength to reach out together to Commonwealth, state and territory governments to build on the existing achievements to create the pathway and supports for a truly sustainable rural medical workforce – a basic human right for rural people and a requirement for long-term economic growth in our regions,” he said.
“Our two colleges have together recognised the critical role that rural generalists play in meeting the health needs of rural communities.
“Rural Australia needs great GPs. And rural Australia needs great rural generalists.”
Rural Health Minister Bridget McKenzie said doctors in rural areas faced complex medical challenges.
She said a rural generalist pathway acknowledged the advanced skill set these doctors required.
“Australians deserve high quality health care no matter where they live,” she said.
“We know many regional communities find it difficult to recruit and retain doctors and there is a maldistribution of the medical workforce which unfairly affects these areas.”