Budget plea for rural doctors

THE Rural Doctors Association of Australia wants the Federal Government to boost the rural health-care sector in its first budget.

In a pre-budget submission, the association asks for more training and financial support for rural doctors.

Association president Ian Kamerman said a record number of medical students set to graduate from Australian universities in the next few years meant more investment was needed to secure a strong rural medical workforce.

"Targeted funding is needed to ensure that doctors-in-training can access clear, rurally-based training pathways from medical school right through to post-graduate medical qualifications, and then into rural practice," he said.

"We also reiterate our call for fairer and more realistic incentives to encourage doctors to relocate to, and remain practising in, rural and remote areas."

Grampians Medicare Local chief executive Andrew McPherson said rural doctors in the Wimmera needed more support.

"We know from our 2013 community needs assessment that a key concern of rural communities is the availability and continuity of doctors and other health professionals," he said.

"The reality is that rural doctors provide both general practice and hospital services in rural locations.

"These doctors are also vital in after-hours health care in their communities.

"Any support we can provide to this crucial workforce is important and acknowledges the role they have in our rural communities."

Mr McPherson said more training and financial support could be an additional incentive for doctors to work in rural communities.

"They are important aspects of recruitment and retention strategies to attract and maintain a sustainable health workforce," he said.

"Many new doctors to the Grampians rural areas are international medical graduates.

"We know from our experience working with them, that they value any opportunities for additional training and support as they orientate to the rural Australian general practice environment."

He said while funding would help, more support from the Federal Government was needed.

"Often these doctors are practising in isolation unlike their metropolitan colleagues," he said.

"Access to ongoing training and support is imperative.'

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