RDAA wants Aussie pollies to adopt 'back to basics' approach

THE Rural Doctors Association of Australia has unveiled its wish list in the run-up to the federal election, urging the major political parties to get back to basics to fix the medical workforce crisis in the bush.

RDAA president Dr Sheilagh Cronin this week launched the lobby group's election platform containing nine recommendations she said would help provide a pipeline of doctors with the relevant skills to practise in small and remote towns.

Dr Cronin said the next five years would be a critical time for rural health as a new generation of doctors were trained to replace older doctors who were beginning to retire in greater numbers.

"The incoming Federal Government after this year's election has the ideal chance to put in place the measures needed to more evenly distribute the medical workforce and deliver substantive health equality for all Australians, regardless of where they live," Dr Cronin said.

The election platform sets out steps the RDAA believes would help retain doctors in rural areas.

"With the significant number of young doctors now graduating from our universities, there are huge opportunities to deliver a home-grown future medical workforce to the bush…we just need to get the policy settings right," she said.

"We know that medical students and registrars who undertake medical training in rural settings are significantly more likely to return to the bush to work once they have graduated, so let's fund more rural training places for interns, junior doctors and registrars."

She called for the establishment of a National Advanced Rural Training Program and a greater investment in infrastructure to build the capacity of rural practices to train medical students, junior doctors and GP registrars as future rural doctors.

She said skilled rural doctors and rural practices that train and supervise these doctors-in-training needed to receive "realistic reimbursements".

But training was only part of the answer, she said.

"Fair and realistic" incentives are needed to lure from the city to work.

Dr Cronin said changing the rural classification system, which is used to allocate health funding in the bush, would go a long way towards achieving this.

The RDAA has long called for an overhaul of the classification system, which it argues classifies some large cities as equally rural as small inland towns.



  • Fund more rural training places for interns, junior doctors and registrars.
  • Implement a national advanced rural training program to provide a fully supported pathway into rural medicine.
  • Invest in infrastructure to build the capacity of rural practices to train medical students, junior doctors and GP registrars as the rural doctors of the future.
  • Provide realistic reimbursements for skilled rural clinical supervisors and rural practices to train future rural doctors.
  • Implement a national approach to employing GP registrars as a way of delivering a more sustainable model for training future GPs.
  • Fund a nationally coordinated program to ensure overseas-trained doctors seeking to practise in rural communities receive access to the training required to meet the needs of these communities, prior to unsupervised practise.
  • Provide fair and realistic incentives to encourage rural doctors to relocate to and remain in rural practice, with the level incentive increasing with actual rurality.
  • Recognise and reward rural doctors for the complexity of the work they perform across the general practice and hospital settings.
  • Establish a rural health infrastructure program to assist rural practices to expand and extend health services to meet the needs of their communities.