Rural junior docs descend on Canberra

3 minute read

The Rural Doctors Association was on a mission to get in the ears of pollies before the May budget.

After a decade of promises for rural and remote clinicians have failed to materialise, junior doctors are taking it up with the politicians themselves.

Last Thursday marked the annual Rural Doctors Association of Australia parliament house breakfast in Canberra, where clinicians have the chance to break bread with politicians of all stripes.

It was at an opportune time too – the last sitting day before parliament reconvenes mid-May for the budget.

The focus this year was on junior doctors who intend to practise rurally but are discouraged by the lack of resources and progress in the sector.  

“There’s just been so much talk around having our National Rural generalist pathway fully finalised, making sure that on-call is sustainable, creating better work life balance, and making sure rural doctors are renumerated at the same amount as our city counterparts,” RDAA president Dr Megan Belot told The Medical Republic.

In other words, when it comes to rural Australia, there’s been a surfeit of promises but not enough action.

“The next generation is actually in our rural communities now, working, and we need to actually hear, from them, what they need,” Dr Belot said.

“And we actually need to do something about it. We need to stop talking. We need solutions to be implemented.”

The specific actions rural doctors want, according to Dr Belot, include boosting the John Flynn prevocational program and allowing GP VMOs to become salaried medical officers in rural hospitals.

Dr Brittney Wicksteed, an emergency medicine trainee, was among the contingent of next-generation rural doctors.

“I’m in my fifth year out of uni now, and I was a rural clinical school student in WA – we were told that all this planning had been done and when we got through medicine there was going to be so many more opportunities to go rural,” she told TMR.

“And while it is the case that opportunities have arisen, there’s still a lot of space for improvement in that area.”

Dr Wicksteed said, there was a good feeling among the junior doctor contingent that the politicians in the room were listening closely and receptive.

Earlier this week, RDAA and ACRRM doctors met with Health Minister Mark Butler, Rural Health Minister Emma McBride and Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney. They also had meetings with Shadow Health Minister Anne Ruston and Department of Health Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy.

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