The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) applauds the commitment and leadership of Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health, Dr Anne Webster, demonstrated by holding the Regional Health Workforce Summit at the Mildura Sporting Precinct in Victoria on 1–2 March 2023.
The Alliance was pleased to see the summit bringing together peak bodies and health practitioners from across the country, to engage in solution-focused discussions on pertinent issues relating to rural healthcare delivery.
It was encouraging to see health practitioners working together to develop solutions for issues regarding regulatory blockages and red tape, policy changes in distribution priority areas (DPA), equity in rural and regional health care, and funding models such as Primary care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services (PRIM-HS). This is the model the Alliance advocates.
The sessions also discussed supporting rural clinicians and allied health workers, as well as collaborations between federal and state governments to improve rural healthcare accessibility.
“The Alliance appreciates the enthusiasm demonstrated by all participants, who work across the patient health journey and work with grassroots individuals and entities that engage in training the future health workforce,” said the Alliance Chief Executive Susanne Tegen.
“Rural children should have just as much opportunity to study medicine and health as their urban counterparts. Research demonstrates that those who grow up in rural and remote areas are likely to remain living rurally or return after studies.
“Let's flip the medical and health training model and support the education and training of the future workforce locally. Let us work on local community-based solutions while taking into account market failures, distance, costs and population health needs in rural and remote Australia,” said Ms Tegen.
“A solution to workforce shortage is to form local multidisciplinary practices. When the market fails, government needs to step in with five-year block funding for rural areas, to ensure they have the same facilities as urban counterparts – and equal pay – considering population health needs and building on what is already available on the ground.
“It is time that the 30 per cent of people living in rural and remote Australia, who add considerably to the economic wellbeing of the rest of the country, receive the same level of health care as those in cities. “We look forward to working with ministers and government departments to ensure that primary healthcare reform reflects the requirements of rural communities, and not what fits best with urban Australia,” Ms Tegen said.