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Panel Discussion

Amanda Barnard introduced the panel members –

Dr Susan Wearne (Medical Adviser, Health Workforce Division, DoH
  • Urban girl from Manchester who lived and worked in Alice Springs and now working as a bureaucrat in Canberra
  • Whilst we are good at talking about the opportunities of rural life, we sometimes forget to talk about the challenges
  • We need to build resilience in our students and talk about the realities of the toughness of rural life, eg. Being on call for long periods of time
  • What is it about our health system that means that there is still one person for one specialty covering a huge area
  • As a Rural GP you create your own ghost town – you see an address and you think that person is dead but then you realise that somebody else has moved into that place now
  • You get those flooding rains which is just the best but you also get those long periods of drought which is tough
  • What are we doing about our health professional education to ensure that our students can cope with that toughness and what are we doing about models of care which mean that each of us work in ways that is sustainable
  • There are specific educational advantages and opportunities to rural and remote teaching
  • But we need to think about patterns of care when looking after our students and supervisors

Ms Carmel Tebutt, (CEO MDANZ)

  • Relatively new to some of these issues as started in this position in October 2015
  • Why does it matter that we address the challenges of workforce issues in regional and remote Australia?
  • Worth stating that as a society and a community we shouldn’t and don’t accept that people’s access to health services is determined by where they live and yet for people in regional and rural Australia, that is still very much the case
  • Access to health care for those in regional and rural Australia is not that available nor forthcoming as for those who live in metropolitan areas
  • Pleasing to see the initiatives that David Meredyth has just outlined in the previous segment
  • Investment in the capacity building is very important and a pleasing development
  • RCSs and UDRH’s are a success story. They have changed the landscape of rural health delivery and rural health services
  • MDANZ are keen to see in the role out of the integrated rural pipeline initiatives, that the knowledge and experience that has been developed within the RCSs and UDRHs, is drawn upon to inform the pipeline.
  • MTRP figures so that there has been an increase in the number of students from rural backgrounds undertaking medicine from 20% in 2003 to 26% in 2014
  • Outcomes also show a significant increase in the number of students who are identifying that they want to undertake regional and rural practice, however the real challenge becomes the lack of opportunities for them to undertake their post graduate specialist training in the way that they should be
  • MDANZ is linking their data sets with those of the National Health data sets to identify where students are actually ending up and what is happening to those students who are identifying that regional practice is something they are interested in - are they actually being able to realise those aspirations
  • Although there are huge challenges ahead with addressing the maldistribution of the medical workforce, there are some very real opportunities as well that can be taken advantage of
  • Real political will on both sides of politics
  • Will take teamwork, commitment, really good project management skills and a level of pragmatism as we work towards those goals and work out what is possible to achieve

Dr Tony Hobbs, (Principal Medical Adviser, Strategic Policy & Innovation, DoH)

  • Here on behalf of Chris Baggoley, who will be retiring in mid July after a great contribution to medicine in this country
  • Worked in southern NSW for about 20 years, with strong collaboration between general practice, primary care and specialists either remotely and in person when they came to visit the community
  • Great to hear that the department has actually put in place an enabling policy environment that really enables you to get on and do stuff that you are already doing well.
  • Important that the department is collaborating, communicating and working towards common outcomes
  • Good to see the acknowledgement, support and investment of the PGY1 to develop good outcomes
  • Registrar training is very important as well, as is vertical integration
  • Also good to hear that STP rurally based positions rotating back to the metropolitan areas
  • Clearly it is not just about the importance of doctors, but also nurses and allied health. The multidisciplinary approach is needed to meet the demand of our cohort of patients with chronic and complex diseases.