$17m to put junior doctors in Queensland regions

3 minute read

It may be for only a rotation, but the state and federal governments hope it will be enough to lure young practitioners out of the cities.

Hundreds of junior doctors in Queensland will undertake a rotation at a rural private general practice or other approved primary care facility over the next two years thanks to $17 million of federal funding from the John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Program. 

The funding will allow 340 junior doctors employed by Queensland Hospital and Health Services to broaden their experience and skill base as part of a “national programs to boost doctor numbers in regional and rural areas”, according to a joint statement from the state and federal governments. 

Areas included in the boost include Wide Bay, Townsville, Mackay, Darling Downs, Central Queensland, and Cairns and Hinterland, as well as Bamaga, Thursday Island, Cooktown Hospital and primary care services in Far North Queensland.  

RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins, whose own practice is in Mackay, said the funding was good news for regional Queensland.  

“Funding for programs that support GPs to train or move to regional, rural, and remote communities can help,” she said. “Being a GP outside of Australia’s major metropolitan cities is so rewarding, but we know it can be hard for people to make the move, particularly if they’re bringing a partner and children.  

“We can help to plug workforce shortages in the near term by cutting red tape and making it easier and more attractive for overseas doctors to come to Australia.  

“Long-term we need to grow more of our own GPs in Australia, which means general practice needs to be adequately funded and an attractive career choice.” 

With regional Queensland dominated by the Liberal National Party and Katter’s Australian Party at both state and federal levels, it is unsurprising that only three of the services have been awarded to state electorates held by Labor. 

“Growing medical training across rural and regional Australia will improve access to medical care for people living outside of major cities,” said the federal Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health Emma McBride. 

“We know that maximising rural training opportunities leads to students far more likely to choose to practise in rural and regional communities.” 

Queensland Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman said: “We want to enhance the appeal of rural training for the next generation of GPs and rural generalists and encourage them to consider a career outside the metropolitan setting.  

“By taking part in the program, these 340 junior doctors will have the chance to work alongside experienced rural doctors where they will be exposed to the broad nature of medicine practiced in rural communities.  

“Our hope is they will see how wonderful and fulling it is to live and work in regional and rural communities and choose to stay.  

“If these junior doctors take up careers in rural medicine, the communities will benefit from an increased level of health service and a more stable, locally-trained workforce.” 

The government announcement noted that the list of participating practices would be expanded “as the program is rolled out”. 

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