Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Group offers health solutions

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This is the fifth article in a series, highlighti­ng the activities and

progress of the Deniliquin Health Action Group since its formation two years ago. In the next two articles we will look at correspond­ence from DHAG to the Federal Government, making

recommenda­tions aimed at improving local health services.

The Deniliquin Health Action Group is working with government­s and health department personnel to try and develop solutions that will improve health services in our region.

While this has been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have none-the-less been able to have discussion­s with politician­s at various levels, from our local Members of Parliament up to the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

We also prepared a submission for the state government’s recent rural health inquiry, and made a presentati­on to the inquiry when it held a sitting in Deniliquin.

At a local level, DHAG has representa­tives at our meetings from Edward River Council and from Murrumbidg­ee Local Health District, in particular senior management from Deniliquin Hospital.

Recently we prepared a submission for the Federal Government highlighti­ng some of the issues in the Deniliquin region which we would like to see addressed.

Today we look at the first part of the submission, and next week’s article will cover the second part.

Firstly, the submission highlights that Deniliquin is in a part of New South Wales that is a long distance from any major population centre within the state, and that people from up to 100km from the town rely on the health services in Deniliquin.

With the closure of the Victorian/NSW border due to COVID 19, that reliance became much greater with no way to scale the services to meet the increased demand.

Being near the Victorian border the overwhelmi­ng trend is for residents to go to Victoria, particular­ly Melbourne, Shepparton or Bendigo for complex and specialist services.

The nearest of these is 140km away. The group requests that the Australian Government consider these proposals:

Rural Generalist GP Training Programme

At present the medical training in Australia appears to be directed at training specialist­s.

Even when medical schools select rural and regional students for their primary degree, many of these opt for careers other than general practice as they progress through their postgradua­te training.

One way to address that would be to establish a pathway that takes medical students seamlessly through to Rural Generalist specialisa­tion.

The present system produces good rural generalist­s, but too few of them to meet needs.

It seems to be dependent on local GPs having the time, commitment and physical resources to take on a registrar.

At the present time, Rural Generalist training programmes are state-based.

We suggest a national registrar training programme for GPs and Rural Generalist­s, rather than the current state-based.

This means that rural towns close to state borders will be able to recruit registrars from closer training centres than currently available (eg Deniliquin is three hours from Melbourne, but nine hours from Sydney), where NSW registrars are currently based.

It will also grant more flexibilit­y for training options and placement options for doctors in their training programmes.

National Health Body

We propose a separate body, spanning both state and federal provinces, not connected to political or electoral cycles, be formed for the direction and provision of health services in Australia (much like the Reserve Bank for financial concerns).

This means that health decisions can be made with a longer term view, the effect of decisions made can be followed up long term, and will be independen­t of party politics and concerns.

Part of this could be a National Recruitmen­t Office for health profession­als, to replace the current ad hoc arrangemen­ts which are largely market and socially driven, and which currently lack direction, cohesion and co-ordination.

Health Records

We suggest a national IT system, where patient records can be accessed by health profession­als anywhere within Australia, rather than is currently limited to state/or local health districts.

■ Next week we will look at other issues raised in the submission to the Australian Government.

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