Charles Sturt University (CSU) will examine ways to provide rural and regional Australians with better access to medical services when it hosts rural health experts, rural doctors, government representatives and local government at a policy forum in Canberra on Friday 24 May.
The forum will look at the latest national and international evidence on how more doctors can be delivered into rural practice, and discuss the barriers to implementing new rural medical education policies.
The forum follows the latest projections by Health Workforce Australia predicting a shortage of more than 3 800 general practitioners nationally by 2025, and its concern that current policy settings will not deliver a solution to the chronic shortages of doctors in rural and regional Australia.
CSU Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said there was “universal agreement” more rural and regional students were needed to study medicine in rural and regional areas to solve the current rural doctor shortages.
“There also appears to be broad agreement now that we need to educate and train medical, nursing and allied health students together in rural and regional areas if we are to equip our future medical and health professionals with the skills needed for long term rural practice,” he said.
“The aim of this policy forum is to explore best practice models for recruiting, educating and retaining rural and regional medical graduates in rural practice, and to understand how we might overcome the barriers to delivering better solutions to rural doctor shortages.
“We cannot deliver a solution to the rural doctor crisis if we continue to focus on why the system cannot change. Our goal is to reframe the discussion around how the system can change to improve health outcomes for rural and regional Australians.”
The forum will bring together experts from various disciplines to examine evidence-based approaches to the current shortages in the rural health workforce.
Dr Kim Webber, the former CEO of Rural Health Workforce Australia will provide an assessment on the effectiveness of current rural medical education policies, while previous National Rural Health Alliance chair Dr Jenny May will discuss how rural doctor shortages impact rural health.
Emeritus Professor John Dwyer will discuss the difficulties of recruiting rural students into existing medical programs and Professor Jim Buchan from Queen Margaret University in Scotland and HWA Consultant will discuss the international evidence base on retaining doctors in underserved areas.
James Cook University Medical School Dean Professor Richard Murray will discuss the case for rurally-based medical schools and La Trobe University Rural Health School Associate Dean Professor Jane Farmer will examine the healthcare needs of rural communities.
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health Services Dr Andrew Laming and NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health Ms Melinda Pavey will also speak at the forum.