VISION: Dr David Cooper wants to create more doctor positions in rural hospitals.
VISION: Dr David Cooper wants to create more doctor positions in rural hospitals. Di Stanley

Rolling out health plan in rural Central Queensland

DAVID Cooper is in the driver's seat to steer sweeping reforms in rural Central Queensland hospitals aimed at improved patient safety and replacing locums with permanent doctors.

A model of heightened communication, new measures to protect small-town doctors from isolation and burn-out in Springsure, Woorabinda, Theodore, Mt Morgan and Baralaba and enhanced rural generalist training form key planks of the plan.

Dr Cooper, the former Emerald Hospital head, has taken on the role of rural medical services executive director for the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service.

"I think the important thing is to share the roster, for example Springsure is very closely linked to Emerald so if the doctor is fatigued we can send another doctor out," Dr Cooper said.

"It also gives us the ability to attract people to come to these towns because if you're there by yourself it is pretty isolating with no networking and no collegiate support.

"Another challenge is that we have a very locum-dependent workforce and we've got to break that.

"Across the CQHSS 30% are locums and we need to start to get permanent staff.

"In Emerald we have been successful with our medical education strategy and gone from having all locums, apart from me, to seven permanent doctors at the hospital."

The CQHHS has rolled out a hospital credentialing program, linking with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine to lure more medicos to the bush.

Emerald has a vacancy to replace Dr Cooper as medical superintendent and educator to continue its accreditation, while Biloela Hospital will create a similar position to bulk up its credentialed medical services by 2016.

"The answer is training and education - no doubt," Dr Cooper said.

"I don't think there's any magic wand fix - it's not an easy space to be in to staff country hospitals - but I think it's the right strategy.

"My plan is to get this rolled out across Central Queensland."


CQ rural health plan

New doctors positions for Mt Morgan, Theodore, Biloela and Woorabinda

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senior medical officer coverage provided by doctors

rotated from Emerald

A shared on-call roster

between Baralaba and

Woorabinda to be created.

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