A RURAL Medicare loading and the implementation of a National Rural Generalist Pathway are the big ticket items for the Rural Doctors Association of Australia in the lead-up to the federal budget and federal election.
RDAA president Dr Adam Coltzau said there had been some significant investments in the rural health sector since the last election.
"To build on this, we need to implement a National Rural Generalist Pathway that has been under development by the National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley and funded by the government,” he said.
"This pathway aims to make it easier for medical students and junior doctors to navigate the road to a rural medical career, and to train them in the advanced skills they will need once in the bush.
"These skills would not only be the procedural ones like anaesthetics, general surgery, emergency medicine and obstetrics. They would also be in non-procedural areas like advanced mental health, paediatrics, geriatrics, palliative care and Indigenous healthcare.
"There is also an urgent need to implement a rural loading through Medicare that better supports those doctors who are working in the bush, and who are often at a financial disadvantage compared with colleagues who choose a career as a city-based GP or specialist.
"Providing a seamless and integrated pathway for young doctors to access the training required to work as a rural generalist doctor, and then providing better financial support for rural consultations through Medicare, would make a huge difference in delivering more doctors with advanced skills to the bush."
RDAA is seeking an election commitment from all the political parties for:
- Implementation of the National Rural Generalist Pathway, to entice and deliver more of the next generation of doctors with advanced skills to rural communities.
- An increase to the Medicare rebate for GP services and a rural Medicare loading applied to all rural consultations.
- Changes and improvements to the federal General Practice Rural Incentives Payments system, so these support payments to rural doctors reflect not only the remoteness of the location in which each doctor is working but also the level of skills and extent of services that the doctor is delivering.
Dr Coltzau said the RDAA was also seeking a commitment from all federal politicians - particularly those within the senior ranks of the parties - to get out to rural and remote areas and see the rural health system in action.
"It is critically important that our politicians, particularly those who are city-based, see first-hand how vital these services are and what challenges they face,” he said.
"They need to visit the local doctors in 'truly' rural towns like Cunnamulla, Qld, Walgett, NSW, and Cobar, NSW, to see remoteness in reality. They need to get out and see the country and the people, and talk to the patients, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.
"This would not only be good politically, economically and spiritually, but it would provide our decision-makers with a real insight into life in the bush, what it takes to entice young doctors there, and what support they need once they are there."