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Rural GPs need doctors too: Roche partners to support the backbone of rural communities

Health Industry Hub | May 10, 2024 |

ESG: Approximately 7 million individuals, constituting 28% of the Australian populace, reside in rural, regional, and remote locales. Despite their number, people in these communities experience many disadvantages compared with their urban counterparts. Roche Australia has forged a partnership with the Rural Doctors Foundation to unveil an innovative GP service named GPs4RuralDocs, with the aim of fortifying the health and well-being of rural and remote practitioners.

Access to healthcare poses a significant challenge for General Practitioners (GPs) themselves, as revealed by statistics indicating that 42% of medical practitioners must journey outside their locales, with 20% traveling distances exceeding 800 kilometres to receive independent and confidential healthcare services for their own wellbeing.

Commencing in May, GPs4RuralDocs will administer essential healthcare services to practitioners stationed in Charleville, Quilpie, and Cunnamulla. Spearheaded by Rural Generalist Dr John Douyere, this pioneering program guarantees that rural healthcare professionals receive in-town care every three months, complemented by telehealth assistance. Such an initiative represents a noteworthy leap towards bolstering rural healthcare and rectifying disparities in access to crucial health services.

Medical practitioners operating in rural and remote regions are not only time-constrained but also face high demand, with 52% of respondents juggling multiple roles to fulfil community requirements. In remote and very remote areas, 32% of GPs find themselves as the sole medical practitioner in their respective towns.

The dearth of medical personnel is evident, with rural and remote areas hosting merely 2.5 doctors per 1,000 individuals compared to 4.1 per 1,000 in urban settings. This predicament confronts numerous healthcare professionals across Australia, often compelling them to deprioritise their own healthcare needs in favour of attending to the needs of their local community.

Fran Avon, CEO of the Rural Doctors Foundation, underscores the significance of this endeavor, affirming, “GPs4RuralDocs represents a crucial step forward in our commitment to supporting rural healthcare practitioners. By providing accessible and regular healthcare services, we aim to bolster the well-being of rural healthcare professionals and enhance healthcare outcomes in remote communities.”

Dr Sue Masel, Deputy Chair of the Rural Doctors Foundation, narrated her personal journey as a GP in Goondiwindi, shedding light on the challenges inherent in rural practice, particularly in accessing healthcare for oneself.

“Rural practice is not without its challenges – one of those being accessing health care for yourself. I totally respect the skills and experience of the colleagues that I work with. But, when it comes to my own health care, I need some separation between being a doctor and being a patient. So, I choose to travel to Brisbane for my own health care. This is a 700-kilometer round trip. Not only does this take me away from my family and my patients, but it is tiring,” she explained.

Nic Horridge, General Manager of Roche Pharmaceuticals Australia, expressed the company’s pride in collaborating with the Rural Doctors Foundation for the launch of GPs4RuralDocs.

“This initiative reflects our commitment to addressing healthcare disparities and ensuring equitable access to quality care for all Australians. We look forward to seeing the impact this initiative will have on improving health outcomes in rural communities,” he stated.

Supporting rural and remote medical practitioners holds paramount importance in safeguarding the health outcomes of communities responsible for producing 90% of the nation’s food and contributing approximately 67% of Australia’s export value.

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