A new model to boost access to GPs in the Murrumbidgee region and make rural generalist training more attractive for young doctors has been rolled out thanks to the NSW Nationals in the federal government.

Federal Nationals Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said the Murrumbidgee Model would show how new approaches can address gaps in health care and improve the attractiveness of rural medical training.

The model, launched in Wagga Wagga, will give junior doctors, interested in working in rural general practice in the Murrumbidgee region, the experience, exposure and qualifications they need to become rural generalist doctors – GPs with additional skills such as obstetrics or emergency medicine.

“This new locally-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.

“It aims to improve the availability of quality health services where people live and means trainee rural generalist doctors can work in private practices and local hospitals to provide a greater range of care.

“This model will be used to test how new employment models for rural doctors can make working in rural and regional Australia an even more attractive career option – here in Murrumbidgee and across the nation.

“Building a stronger health workforce is key to strengthening rural communities. A big focus of mine as Rural Health Minister is demonstrating that rural areas are a land of opportunity for young doctors, and shouldn’t be seen as second prize.”

NSW Nationals Senator Perin Davey said the Murrumbidgee Model will see up to 20 new doctors trained over four years in the region. Sites include Cootamundra, Young, Deniliquin, Temora, Narrandera, Gundagai and an Aboriginal Medical Service in Wagga Wagga.

Dr Joe Murphy will be the first registrar to receive a Murrumbidgee Rural GP training contract through the model. Dr Murphy grew up on a sheep and wheat farm near the small village of Bribbaree, on the outskirts of Murrumbidgee Local Health District.

“Being able to stay with the one employer while I continue my training reduces the administrative burden of moving between employers and facilities,” Dr Murphy said.

“It allows me the flexibility to continue with my GP training in the community as well as do shifts as an Obstetrics Registrar at Wagga Base Hospital. I can also upskill in different areas such as emergency and paediatrics – areas that play a big role for rural GPs.

“Most importantly I have support in terms of being able to maintain and develop professional relationships.”

The model will be evaluated, to assist the NSW Nationals in the federal government to roll out the National Rural Generalist Pathway and approaches that work to support Australians living in other rural, regional and remote areas.

“Each rural community is different and requires a local solution to meet the needs of that area, which is why the NSW Nationals in the federal government strongly supports this locally-led approach in partnership with the Murrumbidgee Local Health District,” Mr Coulton said.

“This new and innovative model is supporting the Australian Government’s efforts to improve health service delivery through the $550 million Stronger Rural Health Strategy and the $1.2 billion in last week’s Federal Budget earmarked to improve rural health.”

Under this model, rural generalist trainees will be employed as ‘state employees’ through the Murrumbidgee Local Health District and be able to bill Medicare for their work within participating primary care locations.

The training organisations, GP colleges and health services will ensure the standards of education and achievement remain at the highest level. The pathway is aligned with National Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Ruth Stewart’s focus on implementing the National Rural Generalist Pathway.