Country doctors urge Abbott to boost rural health care

RURAL doctors have urged the Abbott government to boost regional healthcare in its May budget, with better targeted incentives to help attract doctors outside the capital cities.

In its budget submission the Rural Doctors Association of Australia has called for "urgent action" on the current problematic rural doctors' incentive scheme.

While he has not laid out specific amounts of funding, RDAA president Dr Ian Kamerman said all rural health investment needed to be targeted to lay the groundwork for a stronger workforce in the future.

"This would not only be a sound investment in healthcare access, but would also deliver significant returns in the social and economic health of rural Australia," he said.

"With record numbers of medical students set to graduate from Australian universities over the coming years, we need to invest in measures that will enable us to take advantage of the unprecedented opportunity to secure a strong rural medical workforce for the future."

While more rural training opportunities was "one piece of the puzzle", Dr Kamerman said better health infrastructure in rural areas was also a must.

But top of the agenda, as it has for several years, was changes to the incentive scheme - which currently sees doctors paid the same whether they worked in a tiny remote town, compared to a larger regional centre.

"There is now a solid body of research confirming which incentives can best help attract doctors to rural locations where they are most needed, and then help keep them there," Dr Kamerman said.

"We need to draw on this research to recognise and reward rural doctors for the complexity of work they are performing, and the breadth of services they are providing, and to compensate them appropriately for the isolated settings in which they are working."


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