” About one third of Australia’s population, approximately 7 million people, live in regional, rural and remote areas. These Australians often have more difficulty accessing health services than urban Australians, leading them to have a lower life expectancy and worse outcomes on leading indicators of health.
Death rates in regional, rural, and remote areas (referred to as ‘rural’ in this document unless otherwise specified) are higher than in major cities, and the rates increase in line with degrees of remoteness.”
AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon
Download the AMA Position Statement HERE
Picture above AIDA : South Australian University’s past and present Australian Rotary Health Indigenous Health scholarship recipients.
(From left: Ian Lee, Jessica Beinke, Bodie Rodman, Olivia O’Donoghue, Kali Hayward, Jonathan Newchurch, Dr Helen Sage and Cheryl Deguara).
Extracts from AMA Submission
There is a strong link between the health of Indigenous people in rural communities and their access to culturally appropriate health services.
The AMA believes that:
- greater effort should be made to encourage Indigenous people to undertake medical or health professional training, and incentives provided to encourage Indigenous and non-Indigenous doctors and medical trainees to work in rural and remote Indigenous communities;
- Aboriginal Medical Services should be resourced to offer mentoring and training opportunities in rural Indigenous communities to Indigenous and non-Indigenous medical students and vocational trainees; and
- training modules, resource material and ongoing advice should be developed for, and delivered to, all medical schools and rural and remote medical practices on Indigenous health issues, Indigenous-specific health initiatives and culturally appropriate service delivery.
Addressing the mal-distribution of the workforce
There are a number of fundamental reasons why rural areas are not getting their fair share of the medical workforce. These include:
- inadequate remuneration;
- work intensity including long hours and demanding rosters;
- lifestyle factors;
- professional isolation and lack of critical mass of similar doctors;
- reduced access to professional development;
- reduced access to locum support;
- hospital closures and downgrading or withdrawal of other health services;
- under-representation of students from a rural background;
- poor employment opportunities for other family members, particularly partners;
- limited educational opportunities for other family members; and
- withdrawal of community services, such as banking, from such areas.
In 2016 the AMA conducted a Rural Health Issues Survey, which sought input from rural doctors across Australia to identify key solutions to improving rural health care.
The almost 600 doctors who took part in the survey said extra funding and resources to support the recruitment and retention of doctors and other health professionals was their top priority in trying to meet the health care needs of their patients.
Doctors also said that for there to be genuine improvements in access to health care for rural patients, there needed to be:
- funding and resources to support improved staffing levels and workable rosters for rural doctors;
- access to high speed broadband;
- investment in hospital facilities and equipment and practice infrastructure;
- expanded opportunities for medical training and education in rural areas;
- improved support for GP proceduralists; and
- better access to locum relief.
AMA Press Release 9 January 2018
At least one-third of all new medical students should be from rural backgrounds, and more medical students should be required to do at least one year of training in a rural area to encourage graduates to live and work in regional Australia, the AMA says.
· Encourage students from rural areas to enrol in medical school, and provide medical students with opportunities for positive and continuing exposure to regional/rural medical training;
· Provide a dedicated and quality training pathway with the right skill mix to ensure doctors are adequately trained to work in rural areas;
· Provide a rewarding and sustainable work environment with adequate facilities, professional support and education, and flexible work arrangements, including locum relief;
· Provide family support that includes spousal opportunities/employment, educational opportunities for children’s education, subsidies for housing/relocation and/or tax relief; and
· Provide financial incentives to ensure competitive remuneration.
The AMA Position Statement – Rural Workforce Initiatives is available at https://ama.com.au/position-statement/rural-workforce-initiatives-2017
· Most Australians live in major cities (70 per cent), while 18 per cent live in inner regional areas, 9 per cent in outer regional areas, and 2.4 per cent in both remote and very remote areas.
· Life expectancy is lower for people in regional and remote Australia. Compared with major cities, the life expectancy in regional areas is one to two years lower, and in remote areas is up to seven years lower.
· The age standardised rate of the burden of disease increases with increasing remoteness, with very remote areas experiencing 1.7 times the rate for major cities.
· Coronary heart disease, suicide, COPD, and cancer show a clear trend of greater rates of burden in rural and remote areas.
· The number of medical practitioners, particularly specialists, steadily decreases with increasing rurality. The AIHW reports that while the number of full time workload equivalent doctors per 100,000 population in major cities is 437, there were 272 in outer regional areas, and only 264 in very remote areas.
· Rural medical practitioners work longer hours than those in major cities. In 2012, GPs in major cities worked 38 hours per week on average, while those in inner regional areas worked 41 hours, and those in remote/very remote areas worked 46 hours.
· The average age of rural doctors in Australia is nearing 55 years, while the average age of remaining rural GP proceduralists – rural GP anaesthetists, rural GP obstetricians and rural GP surgeons – is approaching 60 years.
· International medical graduates (IMGs) now make up over 40 per cent of the medical workforce in rural and remote areas.
· There is a health care deficit of at least $2.1 billion in rural and remote areas, reflecting chronic underspend of Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (MBS) and publicly-provided allied health services.
Part 2 Update