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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2076


Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (13:14): I commend the member for Murray for moving this motion. In addressing maldistribution in the workforce that makes it harder to get health practitioners working in rural areas, there are really four elements that need to be addressed. You need to address the students who are entering the courses; you need to address the encouragement and the exposure they get to rural practice during their course; you need to address where they are doing their postgraduate training; and then you need to look at the incentives which are there to assist people who are practising in a rural setting. All of the universities and the medical schools have come a long way with the establishment of rural medical schools. The previous coalition government created nine new medical schools, including some in regional areas. We also doubled the number of medical school places, but the establishment of the clinical skills program in 2000 did provide a much longer-term and more concrete commitment to having people trained in a rural setting.

There are currently 17 rural clinical schools across Australia. In my electorate of Boothby, Flinders University runs two rural clinical schools. They have one based in Renmark, which covers Mount Gambier, the Hills and Fleurieu regions and Warrnambool—the greater green triangle—and they also cover all of the Northern Territory. Flinders University says that is a very important part of their mission. I visited their Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs. The University of Adelaide is specifically focused on the Spencer Gulf and its main cities of Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Port Lincoln. The Dean of Medicine at Flinders University, Dr Paul Worley, has long been interested in this issue. He pioneered the parallel rural curriculum, which started in the Riverland and which allowed people to spend one whole year of their medical training in a rural general practice setting. The initiative has since been introduced around Australia and around the world.

I want to take this opportunity to commend the member from Murray and to say that she has correctly identified that increasing numbers of medical students are coming through and we are looking at where they are going to do their training. It will be important to have increased training places in rural settings and in private-sector settings as well. The initiative of the PGPPP has been very important, allowing people to spend part of their intern year in a rural general practice setting. We have detailed information about districts of workforce shortage at the Department of Health, which has a database on this, but it is still very clear that we need to do much more to address the maldistribution in a rural setting. The rural clinical skills program has been an important part of this.