In evidence last week to the Senate Inquiry into Factors affecting the supply of health services
and health professionals in rural areas, the Alliance proposed a 20-point plan to reduce the
poorer health status experienced by people in rural and remote areas.
Each element of the plan is specific enough to be adopted by governments as a new policy
proposal and, between them, the twenty cover the lifetime path of an individual who might train,
work, mentor and then transition to retirement – all within the rural and remote health sector.
The proposal begins its chronological path with action to attract more students from rural and
remote areas into health science courses, and ends with initiatives to make better use of matureaged
practitioners who are willing to provide support and mentoring on a part-time basis to
students and junior health professionals on placement or training in rural areas.
Intermediary elements include active recruitment of more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people to health professions; positive modelling of rural practice by teachers at university; and a
campaign to make sure students and new health practitioners are aware of the professional and
family benefits of rural practice and the financial support that is available to assist them in making
their professional contribution in rural areas.
“Most of what needs to be done is clear to everyone involved,” according to Gordon Gregory,
Executive Director of the 33-member organisation, “and some of it can be done at zero cost.”
Little extra costs would be involved, for example, in freeing up the location of vocational training
so that rural communities could “grow their own‟ health professionals. All it takes is reasonable
extra flexibility in training, accreditation and supervisory systems.
The Alliance‟s 20-point plan recommends greater acknowledgement and support for University
Departments of Rural Health and Rural Health Workforce Agencies. It identifies imperfect and
missing data series and work practices that are constrained to the urban practice models of the past
as challenges to be overcome. And increasing access to broadband and the other infrastructure
and knowledge needed to make the most of eHealth are among developments being closely
monitored because of their contribution to successful recruitment and retention.
The Alliance will draw on the plan in its contribution to the current Department of Health review
of health workforce programs. In the context of that review the Alliance will make a constructive
proposal for a new measure to replace the much-maligned ASGC-RA scheme.
The plan can be found at: Twenty steps to equal health by 2020.
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660