Providing high-quality care depends on having a workforce trained in the most advanced techniques using modern technologies. Women’s health in regional areas has been impacted by the trend to subspecialisation, as well as a concentration of funding and expertise in cities. Access to minimally invasive gynaecological surgery and assisted reproductive technologies is very limited in parts of rural Australia. This not only creates barriers for women, but also for trainees and early career specialists who would otherwise consider setting up in a rural location.
Our group’s aspiration for 2023 is to dispel the myth that rural women must travel to receive high-quality gynaecology and fertility care. We are doing this by engaging directly with the next generation of women’s health specialists, drawing their gaze beyond traditional metro-focused training, and promoting our model of providing the best that modern medicine has to offer in rural Australia.
OGB is composed of 12 obstetricians and gynaecologists based in western Victoria. We provide onsite care across a diverse geography stretching from the Grampians to the Goldfields to the Surf Coast, with our central clinics based in Ballarat and Geelong. We work collaboratively with specialist nurses, midwives, laboratory scientists and other support staff. Two areas of passion in our group are minimally invasive surgery and fertility services including IVF. Women and families in our region can access their entire treatment journey locally. It's our ambition now to grow and develop this know-how in even broader areas of rural Victoria, and beyond.
The OGB Trainee Workshop was held for the first time in 2022. It was designed and delivered entirely in-house by our group of obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) specialists and nurses. Attendees were O&G trainees mostly based in Melbourne, but all of whom are interested in pursuing a career in rural Australia. The workshop provided education on the management of endometriosis and infertility. This included sessions on point-of-care gynaecological ultrasound, tips for advanced laparoscopic surgery, infertility assessment and exploring the patient experience of IVF treatment.
Combined with this was ample opportunity to meet and mingle with specialists who have made a life and career in rural medicine. In the trainee feedback, this pilot workshop led to trainees feeling more ‘empowered’ and ‘confident’ in their procedural and clinical skills. One participant responded that the ‘best thing was being around inspiring consultants who care and are invested in training the next generation’. Plans are already afoot to make our 2023 Trainee Workshop even more inspirational.
The year 2023 also marks a milestone for OGB, with our first locally trained Fellow of the Australasian Gynaecological Endoscopy and Surgery (AGES) Society due to graduate. This is the only AGES program offered in rural Victoria and just the second nationally outside of metropolitan centres. Being recognised as a provider of training for this peak transnational body reflects the many years of dedication within our group to excellence in training. The training OGB provides promotes strong mentor–mentee relationships and enables unique ‘transition to specialist’ pathways. Continuity is vital to the model, and 15 years of providing advanced O&G training has produced 12 women’s health specialists currently based in rural communities. Our first graduate of AGES is continuing in this mould.
In 2023, OGB will continue to champion health equity for women in rural Australia. Expanding our Trainee Workshop and promoting excellence in specialist training are two efforts to make that a reality in our beautiful part of the world.