Date published: 
3 July 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

MARK COULTON:

Morning. How are you this morning?

DOMINIC INGERSOLE:

I am very well thank you. Now, safe to say just quickly on Emeritus Professor Paul Worley did a fantastic job in that role in terms of bridging the gap and laying down the foundations for making sure regional Australians can get the health services that they need.

MARK COULTON:

He certainly did. As the Rural Health Commissioner Professor Worley, laid down a great body of work. He was instrumental in instigating the generalist pathway, so that the pathway of training for doctors so that they've got that broader range of skills that enable them to be better qualified to work in a rural and regional area.

He's done a terrific body of work on allied health services and the need in that space as well, as well as you mentioned in your introduction, did a lot of work with Indigenous communities and health for those areas.

So Paul does leave behind a great body of work and that will be a great base for the new Rural Health Commissioner to start on.

DOMINIC INGERSOLE:

And Mark, the Government's just announced the new commissioner. Going forward, so who's going to be filling that role?

MARK COULTON:

So Professor Ruth Stewart will be the new Rural Health Commissioner.

She will be supported by two assistant commissioners yet to be appointed that will have skills in nursing, allied health and Indigenous health. Professor Stewart is a great choice. She has a wide experience across regional Australia.

She lives on Thursday Island, so you don't get much more rural or remote than Thursday Island and she will have, I think, a different role to Professor Worley.

Her role will be more on implementation. Professor Worley did a lot of work on policy and Professor Stewart will be building on that.

So a lot of the programs we've got going on in our part of the world, the Murray Darling Medical School, the generalist pathway, tying in a more collaborative multidisciplinary model across not only GP practice, but allied health, bringing in pharmacy where necessary.

And so her role will be more along implementation and I think she's the sort of person who can roll up her sleeves and absolutely make these things happen.

DOMINIC INGERSOLE:

And how important was it for rural Australia that this commissioner role got extended beyond that original June 30 2020 date?

MARK COULTON:

Look, it's very important that, you know, that was a- the Rural Health Commissioner was a National Party policy that saw the role instigated in the first place.

I was very pleased to see at the last sitting week of Parliament, there was unanimous support from everyone, all sides of politics, in the House of Representatives and the Senate to support the continuation of the role.

And it is important because the rural health is different to our health in the cities.

We have to look after towns that have higher levels of chronic illness. And you know, sadly, the life expectancy of people- the more further you go from the capital city, the life expectancy does drop somewhat. And we need to balance that inequality.

We need to explain to people that a career working in rural Australia is rewarding; living in a country town is a great thing to do and I’m hoping that Professor Stewart will be able to change the dialogue away from a crisis in rural health to an opportunity for medical professionals, whether they're doctors, nurses, allied health workers or pharmacists to actually locate and you know, establish a business, serve a local community and you know, benefit from the wonderful lifestyle opportunities of those of us living in regional Australia, at times, take for granted.

DOMINIC INGERSOLE:

Yeah. There's plenty of reasons why we love living here in our regional areas and forming those personal connections definitely is a very, very big highlight.

So let's hope that we do see more doctors and more health practitioners coming our way. Mark, thank you very much for your time on the program this morning.

MARK COULTON:

It’s a pleasure. Talk to you next time.

DOMINIC INGERSOLE:

All the best. No worries. The Honourable Mark Coulton there.