The rural health workforce has risen to the challenge of keeping Australian communities safe from the COVID-19 virus. Rural GP Duncan MacKinnon is on the front line of the pandemic response in rural NSW running vaccination clinics at his GP practice at Bega.
‘I think small communities have a sense of identity that is more cohesive than larger areas, and so in many ways, I think our community was ready to take on the pandemic.’
The Bega community was drawn into the emergency response in January this year when a local venue was listed as an exposure site.
‘We felt a great deal of ownership of the need to protect our community and we were really ramping up our ability to provide health care.’
Dr MacKinnon says there is a high level of trust in rural health professionals and he is urging residents in all rural, regional and remote communities to visit their health professionals to discuss the benefits and risks around vaccination.
‘Small communities trust their GPs and that's an important issue for us. It is important that we are confident in the information that we are sharing with them. It's important that we're confident in the process and that their health providers/health professionals trust the whole process.’
Dr MacKinnon says that although the vaccination process has had challenges, he is confident in the science and expert advice. He says it is critical that local, state and commonwealth health authorities continue to adapt the emergency response as more and more clinical knowledge and research is available.
‘The reality is the more reading you do and the more research you do and the more up-to-date you stay, the greater your confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and the program itself. The reality is that we probably are all going to get COVID and ultimately, at the end of the day, the only people who will die from it are people who are not vaccinated.’
Dr MacKinnon says the natural history of the infection is life-threatening for many people, and that is what everyone in the community needs to take into consideration.
‘Rurally we are doing really well and I think we have the capacity to keep our communities safe – much safer than our urban counterparts – but it does depend on us taking up the mantle and running with the vaccine, when it's offered and when we have the opportunity,’ said Dr MacKinnon.