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18 Oct 2016

This is an open letter to the yet to be announced Rural Health Commissioner promised by the Turnbull government in June.

Dear new Rural Health Commissioner,

Congratulations on your new posting. There are a lot of souls out here in rural Australia who are eager for a unified, empathic, sensible approach to the health care issues out here.

The fact you are now in position is a breath of hope to us all - it means the Government is willing to listen. Good on them but, as you know, listening is not enough.

We sincerely hope you are given the mandate to act on your findings.

Go your thunder, ruffle a few feathers, argue, compromise, then make new projects and programs for us to benefit from your work. We may not agree with you, but we will be behind you.

 As you know, that's how it works here.

You also are not alone in the current Government where, along with Sussan Ley, there are many other members of Parliament from rural areas.

Here is a little wishlist from us:

We need internet access.

This is not an urban area with 4G, hotspots and choices of providers.

We make ourselves humble to Telstra for all telecommunications.

It takes years to improve the signal. While we wait at dial-up speeds or with signal blackouts, out there is the world wide web.

As you know, health care requires medical software support, upskilling, teleconferencing and videoconferencing bandwidth.

Image and document uploading and retrieval is our way of communicating to our specialists.

Internet is cheaper than transporting a patient to a tertiary centre.

For our private needs, it is our sanity. To survive, we need social connections, the ability to shop, internet banking, and access to entertainment and news. It is our way of reaching out.

Increase the number and scope of rural GP and specialist training positions.

There are many ways to do this: increase the required clinical training time for medical students to a minimum threshold; grant specialist training in difficult-to-enter specialties if training is undertaken rurally; fund more rural training positions; and freeze funding on urban training positions.

Create more rural training positions by rewarding rural practices more for taking on a trainee, and promote and expand a National Rural Generalist Program which will create ‘advanced specialty GPs’ in anaesthetics, ED, obstetrics, mental health and Aboriginal health.

Expand support for rural grants.

For example, there are the rural infrastructure grants, rural procedural grants, and rural incentive programs.

In addition, we need visiting specialists and locum support to allow us to just take some time away from work. Our families and children need support with employment, recreational, educational and childcare opportunities.

Our country hospitals need to be fostered, not closed.

Visiting specialists have requirement to help them function when they visit. We need Rh negative blood in our EDs. Closing a maternity ward in a country hospital does not mean deliveries stop there: they still happen, and we need a fully functioning hospital to support us.

Recognise us.  How about a Medal of the Order of Rural Australia?

I could go on and on, but you are a busy person.

We wish you well. Don't get too stressed. Come back to us after the Commission.

A voice from the rural doctors of Australia.






Published: 18 Oct 2016