GP retention rates

Providing education and training opportunities in rural areas and selecting medical students who have a rural origin would help improve the retention rates for junior health professionals, according to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

General Manager of Health Services at the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern (RFDS SE) Section Dr Kath Atkinson said there are many factors associated with shortages of rural doctors.

“Despite investments into medical training, healthcare professionals are still reluctant to move to rural areas,” Dr Atkinson said.

“Selection of rural-origin medical students and providing health professional education and training in rural areas does improve retention rates for junior and early career health professionals.”

The Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern (RFDS SE) Section delivers 24 hour emergency and primary healthcare services to people living, travelling and working in remote, rural and regional communities.

It has bases in Dubbo, Broken Hill, Mascot, Launceston, Bankstown and Essendon.

In the past year, the RFDS SE Section facilitated almost 4,500 clinics, took over 5,500 telehealth calls, had over 49,100 patient contacts and transported almost 8,200 patients.

Dr Atkinson said attracting more healthcare professionals to work in remote, rural and regional communities has been a challenge for decades.

“Efforts are always being made to address this complex challenge. Addressing it requires ongoing investment and collaboration between government, healthcare providers and communities,” she said.

In order to help resolve the doctor shortage issue Dr Atkinson said “collaboration is critical”.

“To engage the next generation of healthcare professionals, we regularly partner with local health services, the University of Sydney’s Department of Rural Health in Broken Hill and the School of Rural Health in Dubbo,” she said.

“We offer medical, dental and other health students the opportunity to experience how rewarding careers in rural and remote health are.

“Investment also helps and that’s why we were pleased to see the Australian Government recently allocate $54 million to the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training program.

“This program will expand support for clinical placement activity for nursing, midwifery, dental or allied health students in country communities.”

Dr Atkinson said the RFDS SE Section has a very committed team of people working for the Royal Flying Doctor service.

“We always encourage interested healthcare professionals to send us an expression of interest on our website so we can potentially work together,” she said.

“People can to enquire about working with us.”