May 09, 2023

Prioritising the Federal Budget: Advancing a sustainable workforce in rural areas

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With the Federal Budget to be released this week, there is immense focus on the distribution of funds towards the rural workforce.

The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) emphasises the need for financial allocations in the budget to combat the scarcity of healthcare professionals in rural, remote, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities. 

To effectively enhance healthcare accessibility for people residing in rural and remote regions, the government must address several key aspects. These include training provisions, resource allocation, personal and professional support systems, and appropriate remuneration for healthcare practitioners who serve beyond urban and metropolitan boundaries.

Dr. Dan Halliday, President of ACRRM, asserts that the college has viable solutions to avert the prevailing workforce crisis. Dr. Halliday elaborates, stating, “We must cultivate a larger Rural Generalist workforce by facilitating comprehensive medical training, providing opportunities for pre-professional experiences, offering support for the physical and mental well-being of practitioners, and rebuilding the training infrastructure in rural and remote areas to encourage students from these regions to consider a career in rural medicine.”

To achieve these objectives, the proposed investment should incorporate the following measures:

  • An additional annual funding of $12.5 million to expand and improve the ACRRM Rural Generalist Training Scheme. This will generate an increased number of well-supported funding opportunities, consequently bolstering the Rural Generalist workforce.
  • Allocation of 50 additional earmarked positions for the Rural Generalist Training Scheme in the John Flynn Prevocational Doctor program.
  • Provision of funds for dedicated programs catering to the well-being of doctors, trainee doctors, and the extended healthcare workforce in rural and remote areas falling within the MMM3-7 classification.
  • Funding ACRRM to establish and implement a nationwide program aimed at promoting careers in Rural Generalist medicine among secondary school students in rural and remote areas. This initiative requires an annual investment of $2.5 million over a span of three years, amounting to a total cost of $7.5 million.
  • Collaboration with universities to establish a scholarship scheme that supports rural and remote students commencing their medical degrees. An investment of $3 million would facilitate the provision of 100 scholarships, each valued at $25,000.

Dr. Halliday underscores the significance of these funding initiatives in addressing the present workforce requirements and positioning us favourably for the future. He emphasises, “As a college, we advocate for appropriate incentives and remuneration that reflect the value of services provided by rural general practitioners and rural generalists to communities where their services are most urgently needed.”

By strategically allocating resources and implementing these measures, the Federal Budget can actively contribute to developing a sustainable healthcare workforce in rural areas, ensuring improved healthcare access and delivery for all. 

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