Medicare Locals: Not The Magic Pill For Rural After-hours Care, Australia

Main Category: Medicare / Medicaid / SCHIP
Article Date: 28 Feb 2011 – 3:00 PST

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The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has warned that after-hours services are under severe
threat in many rural areas and that funding for Medicare Locals to address this issue may not solve the
problem.

RDAA President, Dr Paul Mara, said that while he welcomed recognition in the current health reform agenda of the
important role of doctors in meeting substantial patient health load in the community, significant numbers of rural
doctors were considering their future participation in after-hours services in light of the current proposals.

“This is a particularly important issue in the bush, where doctors are often the first point of call for patients seeking
healthcare through general practices, with these same doctors also servicing the local hospital both during-hours
and after-hours” Dr Mara said.

“Unfortunately, many of these hard-working country doctors have already spent years providing these services with
little support, and a tipping point has been reached-after-hours care in rural communities across NSW and in
many other areas of the country is under threat.

“There are already a number of country towns where doctors have been forced to withdraw after-hours services
due to doctor burn-out and excessive workloads.

“This is a very difficult and stressful decision for any doctor to make, particularly where they are intimately involved
with their local community.

“We want to work with Medicare Locals to ensure their role in co-ordinating after-hours care complements and
supports existing local after-hours models that are already working well, rather than replaces these services,
competes with them or renders them unviable.

“However, the real issue is around the ongoing health workforce shortage. The only solution is to build increased
health workforce capacity in rural communities, so doctors can cover after-hours without having to work extended
hours, can have adequate time off to compensate and can meet the needs of their communities locally.

“This means turning one-doctor towns into two-doctor towns, and two-doctor towns into three and four-doctor
towns.

“It also means a national training scheme that delivers the advanced skills required to provide medical care in
isolation, backed up by financial compensation and incentives that reflect the complexity and conditions of rural
practice, so junior doctors see rural practice as a viable and rewarding career path.”

Source:

Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA)



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