The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) was represented at a meeting of the Rural Health Stakeholder Roundtable in Canberra last week. Nineteen of the twenty groups attending the roundtable are member organisations of the NRHA. The aim of the Roundtable, which was established in 2015, is to provide a forum for key stakeholders to discuss new and innovative approaches to workforce to improve health outcomes for the people of rural and remote Australia.
At the meeting, representatives met with the new Minister for Rural Health, Senator Bridget McKenzie, and the recently appointed National Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Paul Worley. Discussion focused on rural health workforce pathways, Indigenous workforce issues, examining health workforce data and the Health Workforce Scholarship Program.
Also at the meeting, Professor Paul Worley announced an agreement between Alliance members, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Rural to develop a national framework for the rural generalist pathway for medicine. The framework isn’t about increasing doctor numbers in rural and remote parts of Australia. It’s about better preparing doctors for a broader scope of rural medical practice. The rural generalist pathway for medicine is essential to improve access to comprehensive primary care that is integrated with secondary and tertiary healthcare services.
Ms Julianne Bryce attended the meeting as the designated representative from the Board of the National Rural Health Alliance. Speaking at conclusion of the meeting, Ms Bryce emphasised the importance of the whole of the rural health workforce to improving health outcomes for the seven million people living in rural and remote areas of Australia:
“Improving access to health and aged care services in rural and remote areas is such an important issue and is about the whole health workforce team. The development of rural generalist pathways for health professionals is a great step in the right direction. The Alliance welcomes the expansion of the focus of the rural health workforce roundtables to include allied health, nursing, midwifery and dentistry – professions that are also very much in demand in rural and remote parts of the country.”
As outlined in its Pre-Budget Submission for 2018-19, the Alliance believes that the identification and development of rural generalist pathways for the whole of the rural health workforce will support evidence based integrated models of care and a sustainable rural workforce.