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Budget 2018: Budget delivers for rural health



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8 May 2018

Budget delivers for rural health

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) says the Federal Government has delivered for rural health this Budget, with a Stronger Rural Health Strategy worth $550 million being announced.

RDAA President, Dr Adam Coltzau, said the Budget includes a wide range of initiatives that will make a real difference to the health workforce in rural Australia and the many rural and remote communities it serves.

“This is the rural health Budget that RDAA has been waiting for” Dr Coltzau said.

“There are not just one or two initiatives here - this is a multi-pronged approach to supporting improved medical workforce distribution to rural and remote Australia.

“The Budget includes a range of supports for medical students, junior doctors, registrars and senior doctors, which will deliver the right doctors with the right skills to meet community needs into the future.

“We welcome the expansion of Australian-trained junior doctor rotations in supervised rural primary care settings, as part of the Junior Doctor Training Program.

“We have been advocating strongly for increased junior doctor rotations with supervision as they are an excellent recruitment mechanism for future rural doctors.

“These rotations provide a great opportunity for junior doctors to get a feel for rural medicine in a supported environment, and the expansion of this program will see an increase from the current 240 rural rotations to over 1,000 once it is fully implemented.

“This is great news for rural communities and we commend the Government for committing to this program.

“There will also be an additional 100 Rural Generalist training positions to commence in 2021, and we believe this demonstrates a commitment to the National Rural Generalist Pathway.

"We have been a major supporter of this Pathway, and see it as a critical initiative if we are to ensure the next generation of rural doctors have the right skills to meet their local community needs.

“We also acknowledge the commitment from the Federal Minister for Rural Health, Senator Bridget McKenzie, to provide the National Rural Health Commissioner, Emeritus Professor Paul Worley, with the required resources and support to progress the next phase of work towards implementation of the National Rural Generalist Pathway.”

Rural Medical Schools have been a contentious issue in the lead-up to the Budget, however RDAA is now satisfied that the Government has made enough commitments for junior doctor training in the post-university years that it can now support the additional Rural Medical School programs announced in this Budget.

“We thank the Government for listening to our call to only progress a rural medical school announcement if there was also investment in, and a commitment to, increasing rural junior doctor positions” Dr Coltzau said.

“We are pleased to see that there are a number of initiatives that together will help build the capacity of our rural practices and hospitals to train young doctors and provide them with a rewarding medical career in our rural communities.”

In addition to these initiatives, RDAA supports in-principle a range of other Budget announcements supporting the rural medical workforce and rural communities, including:

changes to the bonded scholarship schemes for medical students supporting overseas trained doctors who are currently working in rural communities to progress towards Fellowship of a GP College $338.1 million for mental health $3.9 billion for Indigenous health $40 million for urgent maintenance and infrastructure for regional aged care providers supports for rural practices in MM3-7 locations to employ nurses and allied health staff, including non-dispensing pharmacists

“RDAA will work with the Government and Department of Health on the various initiatives to ensure the detail and implementation align with the needs of rural communities across Australia” Dr Coltzau said.

“The National Rural Health Commissioner will also play an important role in ‘rural proofing’ the health budget initiatives.

“Finally, while the impact of the Medicare freeze on rural general practice will continue to be felt for a number of years to come, we welcome the next stage of the lifting of the freeze which will see GP consultation item numbers re-indexed from 1 July 2018.

“We greatly look forward to working with the Federal Government and Department of Health to bring the benefits of the Stronger Rural Health Strategy to fruition.”

A high resolution photo of Dr Adam Coltzau is available by clicking here.

Available for interview:

RDAA President, Dr Adam Coltzau (via contacts below)

RDAA CEO, Peta Rutherford, on 0427 638 374

Media contacts:

Patrick Daley on 0408 004 890

Ineke Kuiper on 0408 669 638 (Thursday / Friday)

RDAA National Office on 02 6239 7730