Rural doctors chief aims to heal ailing system

Emergency medical equipment in accident and emergency at Nambour General Hospital.
Emergency medical equipment in accident and emergency at Nambour General Hospital. Iain Curry

IMPROVING the broken rural health incentive classification system will be a key issue for the new head of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, who took the helm on Monday.

Tamworth general practitioner Dr Ian Kamerman took the reins of the national group after central Queenslander Dr Sheilagh Cronin completed her tenure this week.

Dr Kamerman said he welcomed recent  Government announcements aimed at  improving rural health, particularly $40 million to fund an extra 100 interns across the country.

However, he described the need for improvements to the remoteness classification system - which determines incentives for rural doctors - as the most pressing issue facing rural health.

The system has been widely criticised for providing incentives to doctors working in larger regional cities when more remote areas were in more need for doctors.

Dr Kamerman said he knew Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash had "a thorough appreciation of this situation", and hoped a more practical solution could be found.

"We also continue to be strongly concerned with the new arrangements for funding of after-hours medical services in rural areas (implemented just prior to the new Government being elected), as these arrangements have been a strong disincentive for many rural practices to continue to provide after-hours services in their communities-services that many of the practices have been providing cost-effectively for decades," he said.

"There is also a pressing need to ensure better support, training and supervision of the overseas trained doctors who are a significant element of the rural medical workforce in Australia."

Topics:  health rural doctors rural doctors association of australia rural health

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