Trainee rural generalist doctors in the Murrumbidgee region can now work in private practices and local hospitals under a new and innovative employment model that will provide a greater range of care for local patients.

Federal Nationals Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said the Government was acutely aware of calls from communities to deliver initiatives to attract and retain doctors in rural and remote areas.

“This new local-driven model is an important step in our commitment to delivering better healthcare for rural communities and ensuring rural practice is more appealing for doctors,” Mr Coulton said.

“New positions need to be attractive to trainees, which includes maintaining their employment conditions as they move between rural hospitals and primary care settings.

“Around seven million people live outside our major cities and they deserve access to quality health care where and when they need it. There’s no silver bullet solution, but a range of short, medium and long-term solutions over time will deliver more doctors in our regions.

“Each rural community is different and requires a local solution to meet the needs of that area, and the welcomes locally lead solutions such as this.”

Mr Coulton said the new and innovative employment model – termed the Murrumbidgee Model – will help to fill gaps in rural health care services initially in this region, and then more broadly across Australia.

“Under the Murrumbidgee model, local regional health services—in both primary care and hospital settings—will work together to support rural generalist training in the region,” he said.

“The program includes a Medicare exemption to encourage new partnerships and the sharing of resources between state and territory government facilities.

“This reflects a more flexible way of working to deliver training and services in rural areas.”

Mr Coulton said the model was the result of a significant amount of collaborative work driven by health services in the Murrumbidgee and local community leaders. The Federal Nationals in Government are committed to delivering more measures to improve access to primary healthcare, and today also announced that a targeted recruitment pilot involving between five and 10 locations across Australia would be expanded.

“The Remote Vocational Training Scheme has a long history of supporting doctors in small communities to gain GP Fellowship,” Mr Coulton said.

“For the last few years RVTS has had success in recruiting doctors to towns such as Mallacoota, Lightning Ridge and Bourke through their targeted recruitment strategy.

“These are just two of a number of opportunities we are looking at trialling for new regional innovative employment models to better support GP training.”

The Nationals in Government will continue to look at other innovative models to address workforce challenges in rural and remote Australia for doctors.

“Our last budget committed $62.2 million for the Rural Generalist Pathway to help get more doctors into the regions where they are needed most,” Mr Coulton said.