Spotlight on how to grow Australia’s rural and regional health workforce

Annika Howells
Med J Aust 2023; 219 (3): 1.
Published online: 7 August 2023

Training junior doctors in large teaching hospitals in Australia’s cities often results in more doctors choosing to stay in metropolitan areas rather than moving to practise in rural and remote areas, according to the National Rural Health Commissioner.

More can be done within medical and health professional education models to address shortages in the rural and remote health workforce, the National Rural Health Commissioner writes in a Medical Journal of Australia supplement published today.

Adjunct Professor Stewart has held the position of National Rural Health Commissioner for three years, bringing more than 30 years’ experience as a rural generalist and obstetrician to the role.

The Office is the National Rural Health Commissioner is a statutory office, independent of the Minister for Health and Aged Care and the federal Department of Health and Aged Care.

“For registered health professions in Australia, the number of employed full-time equivalent clinicians decreases on a per head of population basis the more remote the location is. In short, where the health need is greatest, there is the lowest supply of health professionals,” Adjunct Professor Stewart writes.

“Over the past 30 years, successive Australian governments have implemented policies to address these challenges and disparities.

“This MJA supplement focuses on policy interventions at the tertiary education phase of health professionals’ training pipeline.

“It is at this point where interventions are proving to increase the number of rural and remote based health professionals.”

Adjunct Professor Stewart argued it is time to acknowledge the limitations of the educational model that has focused on large institutions in big cities.

“Knowing that teaching in rural and remote communities can deliver a rural workforce, we now have a mandate and the roadmap to expand the [Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT)] program and make health professional education socially accountable in the creation of graduates who practise evidence-based health care where they are most needed,” Adjunct Professor Stewart writes.

  • Annika Howells



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