Rural GPs call for easier path to hospital

(AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Rural GPs would be offered easier paths to work in local hospitals under a new push from the powerful doctors’ peak professional body.

The Australian Medical Association on Tuesday released a new position statement designed to attack workforce shortages in rural areas.

It found stringent bureaucratic processes in hospitals and health services were stopping some rural GPs and generalists from having any involvement in local hospitals.

The AMA wants all rural hospitals and health services to have a local GP or generalist involved in decision-making.

Under the proposal, doctors would be paid through the federal Medicare Benefits Schedule for private practices while states pick up the bill for hospital work.

A nationally consistent credential system would ensure rural GPs or rural generalists with advanced skills were not arbitrarily restricted in scope of practice.

The AMA’s Council of Rural Doctors is concerned about rural GPs being denied opportunities to work in local hospitals while temporary locums are hired at a higher cost.

Council chair Marco Giuseppin said the recommendations were about dealing with problems which led to GPs leaving communities.

He said integrating rural GPs and generalists into a single health care environment would deliver better outcomes for hospitals and patients.

“Supporting rural GPs and rural generalists to work collaboratively between hospitals and private general practices gives these doctors more reasons to stay rural and serve their communities,” Dr Giuseppin said.

“Implementing the Commonwealth government’s National Rural Generalist Pathway can facilitate the industrial and cultural change necessary to achieve this.”

The position statement also recommends support for local GPs’ clinical up-skilling or re-skilling by local hospitals or health services.

Telehealth and virtual services should not be considered a direct replacement for face-to-face service in a rural town.

AMA president Omar Khorshid said it was extraordinary that hospitals and health services were appointing locums while highly skilled GPs were in communities.

“We need clear and fair arrangements in place so GPs and health services can work together to deliver better health outcomes for our regional and rural communities.

“GPs are the backbone of rural health, providing cradle-to-grave medicine for whole families through their practices, as well as emergency care for their communities through arrangements with their local hospitals.”


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