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UOW welcomes Government review of rural medical workforce needs

Fresh approach needed to address city/bush imbalance

The University of Wollongong welcomes the review of Australia’s rural and regional health workforce announced today by Federal Assistant Minister for Rural Health, The Hon. Dr David Gillespie MP. 

UOW Pro Vice-Chancellor Health Strategy and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, Professor Alison Jones has voiced her full support for a review into the growing imbalance in the supply of medical professionals between Australia’s city and regional populations. 

“The University of Wollongong is in complete agreement with the Federal Government on the need for a fresh approach to the challenge of addressing the imbalance in the geographical distribution of doctors across Australia.

“While ever GPs or nurses need to leave regional, rural or remote areas for major cities to complete specialist training during the crucial formative years of their lives when they are most likely to make significant relationship and family commitments, we will continue to see great medical professionals who would have otherwise served rural communities settle in our cities, further adding to the imbalance of Australia’s medical workforce.

“Simply increasing the size of the medical workforce has not addressed this problem.

“We need a fresh approach that enables nurses and specialist doctors to be trained in situ in regional, rural and remote communities,” Professor Alison Jones said.

The University of Wollongong is an established leader in training doctors for rural, regional and remote communities, having established its Graduate Medicine School with a core focus of training doctors with the capacity and desire to work in these challenging but rewarding settings.

UOW also trains nurses at its Wollongong, Shoalhaven, Batemans Bay and Bega campuses.

“Universities can play an important role in partnership with federal and state government agencies to develop innovative solutions to health workforce challenges.

“Internationally, universities have proven to be useful catalysts in forging partnerships between communities, public and private health providers, and health related NGOs that improve health services and local health outcomes.

“In our unique Australian setting, we need a clear alignment of commonwealth and state health policies to achieve economies of scale. Universities can aid that process by sharing expertise and helping to establish key partnerships,” Professor Jones said.

Operating from its Wollongong and Shoalhaven campuses, the UOW Graduate Medicine School prioritises applicants with a rural background or who possess personal qualities, experiences and a commitment to rural, regional and remote communities. Consequently, around 70 per cent of its students have a rural or regional background, compared to the national average of around 25 per cent.

UOW’s Graduate Medicine School is the only medical school in Australia giving all students the opportunity to undertake a 12-month longitudinal clinical placement in a rural, regional or remote setting in one of 11 regional NSW communities stretching from the Northern Rivers to the South Coast and as far west as Broken Hill. Some students also serve with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and up to six placements are offered in a remote Aboriginal Medical Service.

Since its establishment in 2007, nearly 500 students have graduated from the Graduate Medicine School, with 75 per cent of graduates seeking to practice outside Australia’s major cities.

“We are very proud of our success in preparing GPs and nurses to serve our rural communities. Now we are keen to build on this firm foundation to establish a postgraduate medical training network that enables doctors to undertake specialist training in regional areas.

“We look forward to contributing to this review and working with the Government to address this important national priority,” Professor Jones said.

Further information

More information about UOW’s work serving the health needs of regional communities is available in: Making a difference: Partnering with rural and regional communities towards better health, (June 2016).

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Read the stories of UOW Graduate Medicine School students serving in rural communities in the article The Bush Beat, published on UOW’s feature story website, The Stand.

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