NACCHO #HealthElection16 : Rural doctors call on major parties to commit to Rural Rescue Package

Mackay

Aboriginal medical services are under-resourced, under-funded right across Australia , we currently employ three full-time GPs and have 4000 patients. In Queensland, Indigenous health services received funding for primary health care, but not for GPs. We have to fund doctors out of our self-generated Medicare funds, so it’s hard for us to attract doctors, because we’re not competitive to the private sector,”

UNDERSTAFFED: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Services Mackay (ATSICHS) executive manager Valerie Pilcher says more government funding could mean the health centre could attract another GP to its staff ( see full story below )

Rural doctors are calling on the major political parties to get behind a ‘Rural Rescue Package’ jointly proposed by the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) and Australian Medical Association (AMA) to attract to rural practice more doctors with the advanced medical skills needed by country communities.

RDAA President, Dr Ewen McPhee, said the proposed Package would go a long way towards reversing the decline in health services available in rural and remote areas.

“Rural communities need to have locally available doctors, with the appropriate generalist skills, to meet the broad-ranging health needs of their communities” Dr McPhee said.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in the number of rural generalist doctors over the past few decades, creating gaps in local health services and impacting on overall health outcomes for those living in rural and remote Australia.

“RDAA teamed with the AMA to develop the ‘Rural Rescue Package’, which provides the framework for addressing this problem.

“The first tier of the Package is designed to encourage more GPs, other specialists, and registrars to work in rural areas. It takes into account the greater isolation of rural practice, both for doctors and their families.

“The second tier is aimed at boosting the number of doctors in rural areas with essential advanced skills training in a range of areas such as obstetrics, surgery, anaesthetics, acute mental health, and emergency medicine. Rural areas need doctors with strong skills in these areas to ensure that communities have accessto appropriate acute services locally, including on-call emergency services.

“Fair and realistic incentives to encourage doctors to relocate to, and remain in, rural practice, and which increase with actual rurality, are necessary to reverse the trend of a declining rural generalist workforce.

“We also need a commitment from the major political parties to provide realistic levels of funding to support the development of advanced skills that doctors need when practising in the bush.

“Rural towns need doctors who can provide generalist services.

“This ranges from pre-natal to palliative care, after-hours care, emergency care and hospital services, in addition to their general practice skills.

“The establishment of a nationally recognised rural generalist model of practice, where general practitioners are supported to develop the skills most needed by their communities, is also necessary to help reverse the trend of declining access to healthcare in the bush.

“We call on the Coalition and Federal Labor to commit to the Rural Rescue Package, and to work toward building a sustainable future for rural generalist practice.”

To read the joint RDAA and AMA Rural Rescue Package, and RDAA’s 2016 Election Platform, VIEW HERE  RDAA Election policy 2016

VALERIE Pilcher says a lack of government funding has made it difficult for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Services Mackay (ATSICHS) to attract a GP.

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Ms Pilcher, the ATSICHS Mackay executive manager, says the health clinic has had to stop taking on new patients, as it’s understaffed and struggling to fill an advertised position for a general practitioner.

ATSICHS Mackay currently employs three full-time GPs and has 4000 patients. Aboriginal medical services are under-resourced, under-funded right across Australia,” Ms Pilcher said.

Ms Pilcher said in Queensland, indigenous health services received funding for primary health care, but not for GPs.

“We have to fund doctors out of our self-generated Medicare funds, so it’s hard for us to attract doctors, because we’re not competitive to the private sector,” she said.

“We can’t offer the salaries that they would get in a private sector.”

Ms Pilcher said if the health care service received more funding, it would spent it on GPs, primary health care and outreach services to areas outside Mackay.

Ms Pilcher said mortality and chronic illness were the major health issues faced by indigenous Australians in Mackay.

“Non-indigenous Australians tend to live on average 10 years longer than indigenous Australians,” she said.

Ms Pilcher has been with ATSICHS Mackay for more than four years.

“For me it’s about helping my people, trying to close the gap on indigenous health and help my mob,” she said.

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