Rural medicos under pressure as shortages bite

DOCTORS in rural areas are working "extremely long hours" to combat a shortage of health professionals, industry has argued, despite figures showing the rural medical workforce is steady.

Figures from the Australian Institute of Health Welfare released this week showed the supply of medical workers was highest in major cities, while there were more nurses and midwives in remote regions.

The data revealed that Australia's major cities continue to house the most health workers, as 426 full-timers for every 100,000 residents, while there were only 257 for every 100,000 people in remote or very remote areas.

While the AIHW report showed the supply of health workers in rural and regional areas has been largely steady, the Rural Doctors Association argues there are still not enough.

RDAA president Dr Ian Kamerman said in many rural towns there "simply is not the required number of doctors to meet local need".

He said to combat this, local doctors were putting in longer and longer hours to see patients, and the government was not focused enough on ensuring the wider medical workforce had the skills to work in the bush.

"It should not just be a case of 'a doctor, any doctor' for rural communities," he said.

"In many cases, rural towns need doctors with advanced skills in areas like anaesthetics, emergency medicine, obstetrics, mental health and Indigenous health.

"There are huge opportunities to boost the rural medical workforce - particularly given the number of young doctors now graduating from Australia's universities - however the stars must be aligned to get them to the bush."

The RDAA, and several other rural health groups, have previously expressed disappointment at cuts to funding a key GP placements program, with Dr Kamerman again urging action to improve the rural incentives scheme for doctors.

- APN NEWSDESK



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