Rural GPs need more robust support: RACGP

Tuesday, 26 April, 2022

Rural GPs need more robust support: RACGP

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging the next federal government to boost support for GPs caring for rural and remote patients.

Representing four out of five rural GPs, the most of any organisation in Australia, the RACGP is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Rural Faculty on 26 April 2022.

RACGP Rural provides advocacy, education, training and support for rural GPs.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said the health gap for rural patients would only get worse without action. “Everyone in Australia deserves access to high-quality health care, no matter what their postcode is,” she said.

“However, we know many communities suffer from a critical shortage of GPs and lack of access to general practice care, particularly in rural and remote areas.

“Rural communities have poorer health outcomes than urban communities, with higher rates of chronic disease, and more complex health needs. People living in rural towns are 3.5 times as likely to die from diabetes, 1.5 times as likely to die from coronary heart disease and twice as likely to die from suicide.

“Potentially preventable hospitalisation rates in very remote areas are also over two times as high as in major cities.

“Improving access to high-quality general practice in rural and remote communities is critical to improve the health and wellbeing of rural people.

“There is no quick fix to this problem, there are many factors behind it. Our future federal government needs to act and deliver genuine, long-term reforms and investment to ensure world-class care for all into the future.”

RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements said the RACGP was urging investment in rural health care.

“Australia’s health system is under enormous pressure, and GPs in rural and remote communities in particular have faced significant challenges over the past two years,” he said.

“As the professional home for around 80% of Australia’s rural and remote GPs, the RACGP is well aware of this. We understand that, more than ever, GPs practising outside major cities need more robust forms of support that’s tailored to their unique circumstances.

“This is why we are calling for the next government to strengthen rural health care, with genuine investment and practical measures to support rural GPs. A quick fix is a bad fix. We need government to recognise the interdependencies of the entire system and make sure that any reform is nested within a comprehensive strategy for general practice overall.

“This includes increasing Workforce Incentive Programs with payments for GPs who use additional advanced skills, and ensuring rural GPs are appropriately compensated for their additional skills by providing access to relevant specialty MBS items.

“It’s time to care about rural health. It’s time for real reforms, real investment and real changes to improve access to care and patient health outcomes in rural and remote communities.”

Image credit: © Rustic Studio

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