Communique - Rural and Remote Health Stakeholder Roundtable,
16 November 2016

Building on the previous two Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable (Roundtable) meetings, the November 2016 meeting was chaired by Assistant Minister for Rural Health, the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP. Demonstrating the Government’s ongoing commitment to rural health, this meeting agreed to hold two full-day Roundtable meetings with stakeholders each year.

Page last updated: 13 February 2017

Agenda Items - 16 November 2016 meeting

Topics discussed during the November 2016 Roundtable meeting included:

  • the appointment of the National Rural Health Commissioner (the Commissioner);
  • the development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway (the Pathway);
  • the establishment of a Distribution Working Group; and
  • balancing localised needs with coordinated local approaches – in the context of broader health system initiatives.

Appointment of the Commissioner

The Roundtable considered the implementation arrangements for the Commissioner, whose role would be established as a statutory office holder, with legislation to be introduced into Parliament during the Autumn 2017 sitting period. It was outlined that the first priority of the Commissioner would be to develop the Pathway.

Members emphasised the need to address health workforce distribution and quality of service.

Members discussed major issues and potential areas of focus for the Commissioner in addition to those already outlined. There was consensus that the role of the Commissioner includes dental health, Indigenous health, mental health and midwifery as well as effective models of care to meet the unique needs of rural communities.

Development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway

Members discussed the development of a National Rural Generalist Pathway, which aims to address the shortage of general practitioners in rural and remote communities. Members agreed that defining a ‘rural generalist’ will be a challenge for the Commissioner, noting the wide range of views within the sector. There was discussion around the need for a national approach that allows for solutions at the local level.

Members discussed remuneration, the dependence on overseas trained doctors in rural communities, the success of the state medical pathway in Queensland, the Cairns consensus and training pipelines for rural health students.

Members acknowledged that the provision of private dental services in many small rural and remote communities is not sustainable and that a blended payment model should be considered by the Commissioner.

Distribution Working Group

The Roundtable was unanimous in agreeing that the maldistribution of the health workforce in rural and remote locations is a major problem. Assistant Minister Gillespie highlighted that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not the appropriate way to address this issue, and advised members of the Government’s intention to establish a Distribution Working Group (DWG). Members discussed that the DWG could investigate appropriate models, past and present initiatives and incentives, as well as the role of telehealth.

Members welcomed the Government’s intention to create the DWG.

Balancing localised need with coordinated local approaches

An outline of the general challenges in the health sector was provided, which included Australia’s ageing population and an increasing uptake of new treatments, which are both placing a strain on the health system to respond.

Discussion focussed on some of the current and major Government reforms including the MBS Review, Health Care Homes (HCHs), Primary Health Networks and mental health initiatives.

A presentation outlining progress on the Government’s stage one rollout of the HCH model was provided. HCHs will reform how patients with chronic and complex conditions are treated. All members affirmed their support for the HCH model.

Roundtable Membership

The Roundtable membership includes a number of peak bodies representing the rural health workforce. All 18 members were in attendance.

  • Allied Health Professionals Australia
  • Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine
  • Australian Indigenous Doctors Association
  • Australian Medical Association Council of Rural Doctors
  • Australian Rural Health Education Network
  • Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives
  • CRANAplus
  • Federal Council of the Australian Dental Association
  • Federation of Rural Australian Medical Educators
  • Indigenous Allied Health Australia
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers Association
  • National Rural Health Alliance
  • National Rural Health Student Network Executive Committee
  • Rural Doctors Association of Australia
  • Rural Faculty of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Rural Health Advisor- Dr Paul Mara
  • Rural Health Workforce Australia
  • Services for Australian and Rural and Remote Allied Health