Rural communities will have easier access to doctors and shorter waiting times after the Liberal and Nationals Government announced a $62.2 million 2019-20 Budget investment over four years to fast track the National Rural Generalist Pathway program.
Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation, Senator Bridget McKenzie, announced the Rural Generalist Pathway funding at the 15th National Rural Health Conference, held in Hobart today.
“Australia has the medical workforce, the issue is how that workforce is distributed,” Minister McKenzie said.
“The government is investing in pathways to get Australian doctors into those difficult-to-serve parts of the country.
“Rural generalists play a key role providing rural and remote Australians access health services by providing general practice, emergency care and other specialist services in hospitals and in the community.
“More rural generalists in rural and remote areas means enhanced access to services and better health outcomes for these communities.”
Minister McKenzie said this was an important step towards a national approach to healthcare and fulfils the Liberal and Nationals Government’s 2016 election commitment to deliver a pathway and start implementing reforms recommended by the National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley.
The program will fund initiatives such as coordinated training for rural generalists, expansion of the Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund to provide more early exposure to rural training and seeking sub-specialty recognition of rural generalism through the Medical Board of Australia.
Minister McKenzie said under the program rural GP practices and hospitals would be supported by increased skilled staff – reducing unnecessary hospital admissions, a reliance on locum services and the need for patients to travel for key services.
Professor Paul Worley formed the National Rural Generalist Pathway Taskforce which appointed working groups and expert reference groups to help develop the pathway.
The taskforce presented its advice to the Rural Health Commissioner on 21 December 2018 with 19 recommendations.
Today’s announcement builds on the Liberal and Nationals Government’s commitment to redress the provision of health services in Australia.