A bid to bring back the all-round general practitioner to all regional Australian communities was the main message from federal Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie, speaking in Adelaide.
As the guest speaker at the Rural Media SA event on ‘Bridging the gap of health inequity and access in rural Australia’, Dr Gillespie addressed the looming shortage of health professionals in regional communities, but also highlighted the oversupply in metropolitan centres.
Dr Gillespie said the Coalition was committed to finding solutions to the rural health disconnect and changing the different health outcomes for rural and regional Australians compared with metropolitan residents.
“What we have here is a workforce maldistribution where we have a relative flood of all health practitioners, not just doctors, but they are metro heavy and rural light,” he said.
“As a nation we have had such an expansion of medical training but now the task is to get that army of medical graduates out into regional Australia – in fact this massive growth has sobering prospects because it tells us we will have in excess of 7000 doctors by 2030.
“We have generations of what a lot of people know as the ‘old-fashioned GP’ who ran a practice but also delivered babies or pulled a tooth, but unfortunately that sort of animal has not been produced as much as the super-specialist variety, and we are struggling to get them out into regional Australia.
“So the task at hand is to grow that missing part of the jigsaw of the health workforce mosaic.”
Dr Gillespie said on a whole, SA had a quality health system but there were some challenges with attracting GP’s with the appropriate skills in rural SA.
“A lot of federal dollars are hitting the universities in SA to fund medical training but the issue is attracting and most importantly retaining GP’s in rural SA,” he said.
The Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund announced last month is expected to be a vital part of this puzzle.
The program is designed so that rural-based junior doctors completing an internship year can gain experience in a rural general practice.
“This will improve the pathway for new graduates into rewarding careers with the skills rural communities need,” Dr Gillespie said.
“We want to flip the paradigm so the six years after university is completed in regional Australia.”