Luring rural doctors
Dr Shaun Rudd They can’t be on call 24 hours a day, and we need more rural training places...
INCENTIVES to attract more doctors to North Burnett towns will be boosted, with bigger centres like Bundaberg missing out under changes to the payment system.
The classification system that controls how incentives are distributed under the GP Rural Incentives Program will be updated to a new model from July this year.
About 450 small rural towns will get more incentives for doctors, with $50 million diverted from 14 larger regional centres that will no longer qualify.
Payments will go to doctors once they have worked in rural or remote towns for two years, compared with six months previously, under a tiered system.
It is understood payments will rise from $4500 for the second year to up to $12,000, for towns with a population between 15,000 and 50,000 people.
Those payments are understood to rise with both remoteness of the town and the smaller population under the reforms.
Doctors choosing to work in Monto and Gayndah will get about a $500 a year boost to payments but Bundaberg, as one of several cities with a population over 50,000, will lose the incentives.
AMA Queensland president Dr Shaun Rudd said the change would mean incentives were distributed more fairly to “truly rural and remote areas”.
But he said incentives were “only part of the story” and GPs working in rural areas needed a more realistic and flexible working environment.
“They can’t be on call 24 hours a day and we need more rural training places to help people stay longer or return to the bush and obviously you need to help support their families,” Dr Rudd said.
“We also need more supervision, especially for younger doctors, so they don’t feel like they’re going out there with no support.”
Dr Rudd said there were “winners and losers” in all reforms but it made sense to “use all the resources we have to get them (GPs) in rural communities”.
After years of campaigning for the change to the incentives system, the Rural Doctors Association has backed the Abbott Government move, but says there is still much to be done to improve the rural health workforce.
RDAA president Professor Dennis Pashen said the new system would replace the older system that did not differentiate between big regional cities and smaller rural towns.
The change comes from a rural health review.
Prof Pashen said he hoped other review recommendations would be taken up, including reinstating the Prevocational GP Placements Program that was cut in last year’s Federal Budget.
“We remain disappointed that there is currently no pre-vocational program available for junior doctors to sample general practice and particularly rural general practice.”