Australia’s rural health workforce is a top priority for Coalition Government: third rural health stakeholder roundtable

The third Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable was held at Parliament House in Canberra on the 16 November 2016.

Page last updated: 16 November 2016

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16 November 2016

Twenty years ago one of Australia's greatest health challenges was a lack of doctors coming through the system.

Today, that challenge has been overcome with latest research predicting a surplus of 7000 doctors by 2030,” the Federal Minister for Rural Health, Dr David Gillespie, said today.

“The new challenge is no longer the number of doctors in our nation's health workforce, but where they are distributed.

“This issue, along with the need for greater numbers of allied health professionals in the bush, are among the major topics to be discussed at the third Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable at Parliament House in Canberra today,” Dr Gillespie said.

“The Roundtable will be attended by an impressive representation of rural health stakeholders, from rural doctors associations, medical educators, rural health consumer and advocacy groups, Aboriginal medical services, rural and remote allied health organisations and health workforce professionals.

“We have an outstanding health workforce in the regional, rural and remote areas of this country and today’s roundtable is designed to get all the key players together with government to work out the very best strategies to support them and the work they do for our more isolated communities.”

Minister Gillespie said the Coalition Government is investing record funding in health as part of its commitment to strengthen the regional, rural and remote health system so that Australians living in these areas have access to the best care available.

“Our Government is working in partnership with these people to deliver health care to rural and remote communities through a broad range of initiatives as part of our record funding investment in the health portfolio.”

The Roundtable will discuss today the establishment of the National Rural Health Commissioner (the Commissioner), a new role to champion the cause of rural practice.

The Commissioner will work with rural, regional and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of Government to improve rural health policies.

Another priority item on the agenda is the development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway. This will improve access to training for doctors in rural, regional and remote Australia, and recognise the unique combination of skills required for the role of a rural generalist.

“General practitioners with advanced skills in areas such as general surgery, obstetrics, anaesthetics and mental health are commonly required in the bush also,” Dr Gillespie said.

“We want to make sure these skills are encouraged, developed and properly remunerated.”

Minister Gillespie said the Coalition Government had increased its investment in education and training initiatives both in medical and allied health professions to create a longer term ‘pipelines’ of boosting the rural health workforce.

"The new multidisciplinary training pipeline incorporating the Rural Clinical Schools and University Departments of Rural Health across regional Australia will be a critical component as we boost the capacity of training through our investment in Regional Training Hubs to bring more doctors and allied health professionals to the bush," he said.

In response to recommendations put forward to the Rural Classification Technical Working Group, an independent group that has assisted the Government to implement the new geographical classification system, I announce today that more support will be provided to medical practitioners working in Cloncurry, Queensland and Roebourne, Western Australia.

“I am pleased to also announce an additional workforce support in the form of a rural loading will be applied to all doctors working in these two towns from 1 January 2017,”
Minister Gillespie said.

“The additional loading will be up to $25,000 per annum through the General Practice Rural Incentives Program and will recognise exceptional circumstances faced in attracting and retaining a workforce in these locations.

“The Coalition Government’s broader health reforms will have direct benefits for regional, rural and remote health, with the patient at the centre of care. Localised, integrated, community-driven health care is the order of the day,” Dr Gillespie said.

“The Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable is a central part of informing policy reform in rural Australia and I am looking forward to fruitful discussions with participants today.”

For more information, contact the Minister's Office on 0436 686 313

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