Women in rural and remote Australia face unique challenges when accessing women’s health services. These challenges have an impact on the equitable delivery of health care for women and their families. The centralisation of maternity units over the past couple of decades has resulted in more women travelling long distances for basic care, with some women having babies on the side of the road and others temporarily moving to the city to ensure safe childbirth.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), as the peak body for women’s health, has advocated for the equitable delivery of women’s health services irrespective of where women live. To help advance this advocacy, RANZCOG hosted the first Australian rural women’s health roundtable, held at the College’s head office, Djeembana, in Naarm (Melbourne) on 2 May 2023.
More than 50 delegates representing College Members and trainees, midwifery groups, consumers, and key stakeholders from the federal, state and territory governments, non-government organisations and other service providers who support rural, regional and remote women’s health, examined access to care outside Australia's capital cities at the roundtable.
RANZCOG presented findings from its rural, regional and remote mapping project of women’s health services, as well as learnings from current training and education initiatives that have helped strengthen the rural and remote workforce, and current advocacy work that is aimed at addressing inequitable service delivery.
Panel discussions reflected on the challenges that women and maternal health and gynaecology service providers face in rural and regional areas, explored how access to maternal health and gynaecology services in rural and remote areas can be improved, and investigated how the health professionals that provide these services can best be supported. Throughout the day delegates provided insights on, and possible solutions to, a variety of issues, including:
- models of care
- continuity of care
- cultural responsiveness
- education and upskilling
- workforce maldistribution
- workforce shortages
- collaboration with midwifery and allied health peak bodies
- service gaps
- attracting and retaining healthcare workers to work in rural, regional and remote areas
- support for healthcare workers and general infrastructure in rural, regional and remote areas
- access to contraceptive services
- improving access for both early medical and surgical abortions
- telehealth services.
The discussions will help inform the direction of RANZCOG’s Rural Women’s Health Strategy. RANZCOG thanks all the delegates who attended the roundtable. The College continues to be committed to ensuring that women living and working in rural and remote Australia, like their counterparts in metropolitan centres, receive high-quality obstetric and gynaecological health care throughout any pregnancy and their lives.
If you have any questions, please contact Cynthia Tapiwa, RANZCOG Project Lead for Women’s Health, Research and Policy on [email protected].