Landmark investment to boost rural doctor workforce

A re-elected Coalition Government is investing more than $1 billion to boost rural health, including an additional $146 million in new funding.

Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton said this investment will inject more doctors and allied health professionals into regional and rural communities and improve treatment and care for patients.

“These investments are part of our 10-year Stronger Rural Health Strategy which is already delivering more doctors and nurses into rural communities and training the next generation of country doctors,” Mr Coulton said.

“The Coalition Government is committed to improving the health of regional, rural and remote Australians.

“We are now building further on those key initiatives to target regional, rural and remote communities with immediate health workforce needs.”

Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton pictured with Liam Morrisey and Laura Mattiske, two of the first-year students currently studying their full medical degree in Dubbo at the Sydney University School of Rural Health, funded under the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network.

As part of this, the Coalition Government is committing:

  • $35 million in new funding to significantly expand the successful Innovative Models of Collaborative Care program across rural and regional Australia from 1 January 2023. The program will attract, support and retain rural health professionals to deliver care on the ground. The Innovative Models of Collaborative Care program will help build local workforce, create greater linkages with rural medical schools and provide greater team-based care for patients through GPs and allied health care professionals across their local communities.
  • $15 million to expand the John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Program to more than 1,000 placements in rural Australia per year by 2026. This will train the next generation of junior doctors through placements in rural and regional general practice and prime them ready for the Australian General Practice Training Program.
  • Our plan will also support more GPs to work in country hospitals and treat patients in the community by expanding the Murrumbidgee single employer model trial to more regions across rural Australia. This will allow more doctors training to be rural generalist GPs to work to the full scope of their skills and provide community and hospital-based services such as anaesthetics, obstetrics, mental health and emergency medicine.
  • We will invest $9 million for additional training posts outside of community general practice for rural generalists and GP registrars, and Fellowed GPs to undertake advanced skills training- like obstetrics, palliative care, paediatrics and mental health – that are needed in their community.
  • We will invest $87 million to provide additional workforce incentives to GPs and allied health professionals to provide further targeted support to rural generalists with additional education and skills to work in the regions, and to support the engagement of nurses, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals as part of local multidisciplinary care teams.

In addition, GP catchments that were granted Distribution Priority Area (DPA) status under the exceptional circumstances review process will have their status extended for 12 months from 1 July 2022.

“This will provide medical practices in these areas with more time to recruit overseas trained doctors and bonded medical program participants to address workforce shortages,” Mr Coulton said.

This builds on the Coalition Government’s $550 million investment in the Stronger Rural Health Strategy announced in 2018–19 budget and the approximately $300 million of additional investments in the recent 2022-23 Budget, including:

  • $99.3 million for 80 additional Commonwealth Supported Places so more students can study medicine at rural campuses;
  • $66 million to make it easier and more affordable to access Medicare funded MRI scans in all regional, rural and remote Australia from 1 November 2022;
  • $14.8 million to support Charles Sturt University to deliver a Rural Clinical School. We are also continuing support for the National Rural Health Students Network of Rural Health Clubs with $2.1 million over four years;
  • An additional $33.3 million over four years towards a 10-year strategic agreement with the Royal Flying Doctor Service worth almost $1 billion; and
  • $14.3 million to expand nursing and allied health student training in aged care to another five locations in the Northern Territory, Victoria, New South Wales and remote Queensland.

“We are also incentivising more young doctors to work rurally,” Mr Coulton said.

“The Coalition introduced the elimination of the HELP debt for eligible doctors and nurse practitioners who work in rural towns and remote and very remote communities for specified periods.”

Telehealth has also been made permanent and universal with 100 million new services to over 17 million people since its introduction in March 2020 with an investment of over $5 billion.

“Our long-term National Health Plan builds on our strong pandemic response,” Mr Coulton said.

“Over the next decade, we will continue to improve the health care of all Australians and guarantee Medicare to ensure all Australians get the health care they need.”

Media Release: Wednesday, May 4, 2022