The Australian Medical Association is calling for barriers within regional and rural hospitals to be removed to allow local GPs and health workers greater access to work.
The call comes after the AMA said care to rural, regional, and remote communities is being undermined by administrative barriers within hospitals.
In a new AMA Position Statement on integrating GPs into local hospitals, the medical body made a series of recommendations addressing doctor shortages in rural and remote areas.
Recommendations to improve rural health services
One of the main recommendations is for local GPs to be given opportunities to up-skill or re-skill in multiple facets of a hospital or health service.
Another recommendation is for rural hospitals and health services to have a local GP or generalist involved in the decision-making processes of the hospital.
The AMA Council of Rural Doctors said they had seen several “concerning situations” around the country where GPs were denied opportunities to work in their local hospital, while temporary staff were hired.
AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said it was unnecessary for regional hospitals to be hiring locums over other qualified GPs in the community.
“At a time when our hospitals are under immense pressure, it’s extraordinary that regional hospitals and health services are appointing locums, often at higher costs,” he said.
“There are highly-skilled GPs who are being prevented by administrative barriers from bringing their experience in the community to their own local hospitals.
“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.”
Rural hospitals need to harness skills in community
Dr Khorshid said regional hospitals should be harnessing the skills and expertise already within local workforce.
“The best model for our communities is where the talent and expertise in local rural general practices is harnessed by local hospitals and remunerated through the hospital system, while the MBS covers GPs’ work in their practices,” he said.
“This increases job satisfaction for the GPs, contributes positively to retention of the rural workforce, and means hospitals won’t have to rely on a costly, impermanent workforce.
“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.”
Addressing rural workforce shortages
AMA Council for Rural Doctors chair Dr Marco Giuseppin said they were working to address rural workforce shortages.
“We’re really attacking the problems GPs are finding and which can ultimately mean the difference between them staying in the community or deciding to leave,” he said.
“We want to build stronger, fulfilling, lasting careers for our rural doctors and that’s what’s behind the AMA’s new position statement.”
“Integrating our current and future rural GPs and rural generalists into a single health care environment is achievable and will deliver better outcomes for everyone; especially patients, but also hospitals themselves.”
Improvements to workplace satisfaction and retention
Dr Giuseppin said integrating local GPs into other health services would help with workforce retention.
“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,” he said.
“Implementing the Commonwealth Government’s National Rural Generalist Pathway can facilitate the industrial and cultural change necessary to achieve this.”