Office of Rural Health to support doctors in bush

Doctors will have more support to work in regional and rural Queensland thanks to a dedicated Office of Rural Health set up by the Palaszczuk Government.

Health Minister Steven Miles said the office would be established by Lisa Davies-Jones, the Chief Executive of North West Hospital and Health Service.

“We want to give a stronger voice and more visibility to the issues facing rural and regional staff so they can better help their patients.

“The Office of Rural Health will drive rural and remote health planning, ensure improved access, patient quality and safety, workforce planning and reporting on health outcomes.”

President of the Rural Doctors Association Queensland (RDAQ), Clare Walker welcomes a new home for rural and remote health policy and a commitment to stronger workforce planning especially for smaller communities.

“RDAQ has been advocating for this type of structure for more than 12 months and we believe it’s a positive outcome for rural and remote Queenslanders,” Dr Walker said.

“It will ultimately benefit our patients as the Minister has committed to invest in central coordination for long term workforce planning and training for rural clinicians. This will improve certainty for health services and rural Queenslanders.”

Dr Walker said the shift to a networked model would make it easier for doctors to cycle through regional and country hospitals, helping to address skill shortages and deliver more and better care closer to home for rural patients.

“This development should strengthen access across the whole public health system,” she said.

Mr Miles said the new Office of Rural Health was one of several measures to streamline employment processes for all public health staff.

“We’ll also improve employer arrangements for approximately 65,000 employees to ensure staff are focused on the health of all Queenslanders.

“The current way we employ people doesn’t make much sense and can be confusing for staff and patients,” Mr Miles said.

“About two thirds of doctors and nurses and other staff are employed directly by their local hospital and health service, while the others are employed by Queensland Health.

“These changes will make it clear that all staff are united in their goal to deliver world-class health care under the one banner of Queensland Health.

“This will deliver better health care especially for regional Queenslanders and across the borders of health services.”

Chief Executive of Health Consumers Queensland Melissa Fox said lines on a map did not mean much to patients.

“Whether it’s between Longreach and Mount Isa or just one side or other of the Brisbane River all health services should work together to deliver the best outcomes for Queenslanders.

“That just makes sense.”

Acting Secretary of the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union Sandra Eales endorsed the report and the changes to employment arrangements.

“For too long nurses and midwives have argued they should be employed by Queensland Health. Many work between multiple health services and the “prescribed employer” arrangement can make it harder for them to get issues addressed.”

Improving the network of Hospital and Health Services is one recommendation of a wide-ranging report in to Queensland Health governance to be released today.

The report endorses the current decentralised model of health services led by local boards responsible for service delivery and budget outcomes.

Extensive consultation was undertaken with stakeholders including the Australian Medical Association Queensland, the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland, the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union, United Voice, Health Consumers Queensland and the Queensland Clinical Senate.

Other key recommendation areas that will be addressed include:

  • ensuring Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander representation on all Hospital and Health Boards
  • establishing stakeholder advisory boards to provide advice and direction regarding eHealth Queensland’s operations and Queensland Health’s system procurement function
  • improving the governance of capital works planning and delivery.

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