A visit to Broken Hill by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to draw attention to how regional resources can work together to expand opportunities for Rural Generalist (RG) GP training.
The visit was also aimed at strengthening links between the College and local training and GP organisations in town.
“Across the board, we’ve got a shortage of health professionals and particularly from my perspective, we’ve got a huge shortage of GPs and that’s borne out by my discussions with multiple GP practices and even the Hospital
Director of Medical Services, so they really see a need for GPs to train [regionally],” National Deputy Director of Training – Rural Pathways, Dr Karin Jodlowski-Tan, told the Truth.
The doctor met with members of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, GP Super Clinic, the University Department of Rural Health, and Far West Local Health District, to discuss rural training pathways and identify approaches to support GPs to train in the region and stay to work in towns throughout the Far West.
“With the transition to College-led training, which started in February this year, and new Heads of School and a new CEO to the region, it’s a really opportune time for everyone to get back together, refresh those relationships and look at how we can all support a collaborative approach to solving workforce issues, “ said Dr Jodlowski-Tan.
“And it can’t be Band-Aid solutions and short-sighted solutions because up to now, those have not worked.
“There’s a lot of foresight in the group that has come together. We talked about what the community needs, what the region needs and look at how we can enable it to come to some sort of long-term solution.
“The staff at the University Department of Rural Health have come with a vision to enable and coordinate these pathways to come together, so bringing all the stakeholders to the table and creating this culture of a collaborative approach which is really commendable,” she said.
“Everyone has a very strong desire to work together and create rural pathways so that people can stay in the community. When I put back to the community, ‘what are the needs of the community?’, it was clear from the multiple perspectives that what the need are good rural GPs who can deliver chronic disease care, who can actually work across the hospital as well.”
Launched in July 2022, the Rural Generalist Fellowship is one method of training designed to equip GPs with additional skills that rural and remote communities most need, including emergency medicine, obstetrics, mental health, child health, academic medicine, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and palliative care.
The RG Fellowship is awarded in addition to the Fellowship of the RACGP and reflects the additional 12-month training Rural Generalists have achieved. Doctors training to become specialist GPs can complete an RG
Fellowship alongside their GP vocational training, and the RG Fellowship is also available to practicing GPs.
According to Dr Jodlowski-Tan, these methods of further training to regional areas shows how much the RACGP is supporting the need for more rural GPs and not putting barriers in place of pathways to specialised training to help improve the healthcare system in remote locations.
“The College has been working on delivering training with a regional approach and has policies that support flexibility, allowing people to train locally and enabling exceptions to the usual ways of doing things. We’re working with communities and we’re here to reassure them that actually, if you come up with these solutions, we probably can allow it to happen and they can still maintain standards to achieve Fellowship in general practice.
“When I hear about waiting lists of two to three months before patients can get into GPs and then they have to go to other practices, or even out of town to get scripts, that leads to fragmented care.
“We really need that strong general practice workforce in the community to enable that continuity of care and better healthcare outcomes without fragmentation.
“We need to ensure there’s good rural general practice training in the region and for the region, and then there’s multiple other pathways they can do to gain that additional RG qualification if they want to.”