Doctors in Cairns or Townsville receive the same ‘rural’ incentives doctors in Cloncurry, Mt Isa or Blackwater
Doctors in Cairns or Townsville receive the same ‘rural’ incentives doctors in Cloncurry, Mt Isa or Blackwater

Billion dollar fund fails to give rural doctors a fair go

A rural doctors' association is petitioning the Federal Government to redress the "maldistribution" of incentive funds away from smaller centres which need them most.

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia claimed the government's definition of "Real Rural" was askew.

As it stands, doctors who choose to practise in Cairns or Townsville receive the same benefits as a doctor in places like Cloncurry, Mt Isa or Blackwater.

"The Commonwealth is investing well over $1 billion every year to address the significant maldistribution of the medical workforce, and improve access to care for rural and remote Australians," RDAA president John Hall said.

"But large regional centres are absorbing the bulk of this funding."

The RDAA is arguing in favour of a modified system which more accurately reflects the circumstances under which a doctor works.

The Modified Monash Model classification system gives places a category from MM1 (urban) to MM7 (very remote) based on their population size, remoteness from capital cities and other parameters.

"Doctors in large regional cities and suburban centres generally work 9am-5pm, often live away from their 'work life' (and patients) via a short commute, have large tertiary hospital support nearby, and have easy access to many cultural and educational choices for them and their families," Mr Hall said.

"By contrast, doctors in 'Real Rural' towns often have significant after-hours and on-call workloads, often work both at the general practice and local hospital, and generally need to live in their communities (so they often need to interact more with patients outside work, even if unintentionally)."

RDAA's call comes as Tasmania and NSW undertake inquiries into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural areas.


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