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23 November 2018

The NSW Rural Doctors Network warmly welcomes Bernadette Gotch to the team.

Bernadette has commenced in the newly created role of Director – Service Delivery. The role reports directly to the CEO and sits within the Executive leadership group together with the Director – Governance and Health Service Development, and the General Manager.

The Director – Service Delivery is responsible for the operational delivery of RDN’s core service units – Workforce, Outreach, Education and Training, and Future Workforce. The role is also integral to supporting RDN’s strategy, culture and performance to enable achievement of our objectives.

Bernadette brings to RDN an established track record of service delivery across multiple networks including private, public and government organisations.  She holds a Bachelor of Nursing and a Graduate Certificate in Trauma/Critical Care, having commenced her career as a Registered Nurse at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. Bernadette specialised in both intensive care and trauma before working as an Aviation Nurse, undertaking many international and domestic missions on both commercial and air ambulance aircrafts.  Bernadette was chosen to attend Harvard Business School on two occasions where she successfully completed an executive leadership course in both financial acumen and ‘leading in turbulent times’. She is currently studying her Master of Laws and Administration.

Bernadette’s other roles include supporting the Ministries of Health throughout the South Pacific, and senior roles at International SOS, the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company, most recently as General Manager Assistance, Australasia.

Bernadette joins RDN from The NRMA, Australia’s largest member organisation, where she spent 12 months as the General Manager of Customer Operations. 


25 June 2018

MBS rebate changes: Non-VR doctors

The Australian Government is reforming the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item fee arrangements for GPs. The new fee structure will affect all non-vocationally recognised (VR) GPs (other than those participating on approved training programs, which include the AGPT, RVTS or ACRRM Independent Pathway).

A new MBS item group will establish differential (tiered) rebates on GP items for non-VR GPs to incentivise doctors to become fully qualified. The key change is that new MBS items have been created under Group A7. These items replicate the GP items under Schedule A of the MBS and set the relevant item fee at 80% of the equivalent VR item.

The Department of Health has provided a fact sheet about the changes. Visit the DoH website for more information or email RDN for further assistance.


30 April 2018

Scholarships to improve regional health services

Minister for Rural Health, Bridget McKenzie, has today announced the Australian Government’s Health Workforce Scholarship Program. Health professionals in rural and regional Australia wanting to increase their skills can now apply for financial support under the Program. The Program will provide funding to postgraduate rural health professionals undertaking further study and training in the fields of medicine, nursing, allied health and Aboriginal Health. The Program is administered by the consortium of Rural Workforce Agencies (RWAs) including the NSW Rural Doctors Network in New South Wales.

For more informaiton on the Health Workforce Scholarship Program, visit the HWSP page on the RDN website.


14 February 2018

First step to a National Rural Generalist Pathway

The announcement of the Collingrove Agreement has paved the way for the RACGP and ACRRM to develop a national rural generalist pathway.

The definition of a rural generalist is a:

medical practitioner who is trained to meet the specific current and future healthcare needs of Australian rural and remote communities, in a sustainable and cost-effective way, by providing both comprehensive general practice and emergency care, and required components of other medical specialist care in hospital and community settings as part of a rural healthcare team.

The rural generalism framework will mean more doctors in the rural and regional areas to assist with the current maldistribution of the health workforce.

A Rural Generalist Pathway Taskforce is being formed, led by the National Rural Health Commissioner, and will ensure broad input from across the rural health sector into this Pathway.



20 December 2017

Rural Workforce Agencies to administer the NRHSN

The Australian Government Department of Health has announced the appointment of the Rural Health Workforce Agency Network - led by the NSW Rural Doctors Network - to administer the National Rural Health Student Network (NRHSN) from 1 January 2018. 

The NRHSN is Australia’s only multi-disciplinary student health network, bringing together people studying medicine, nursing and allied health, encouraging them to pursue rural health careers.

More information on the announcement is available from the Department of Health website.


19 December 2017

Malcolm Turnbull’s new cabinet and ministry

The PM has announced his cabinet reshuffle. Former physical education teacher and sports scientist Bridget McKenzie will take on sport, rural health and regional communications as the new Nationals deputy leader. Sport was previously held by ongoing Health Minister Greg Hunt, while former Nationals deputy Fiona Nash held regional communications, and Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie had responsibility for rural health.


30 October 2017

Australian General Practice Training

Federal Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, has announced General Practice Colleges - ACRRM and RACGP will deliver Australian general practice training from January 2022. A transition period (January 2019 - December 2021) is proposed to ensure a seamless continuation of the program.


23 October 2017

First Australian Rural Health Commissioner announced

Distinguished rural doctor and academic Emeritus Professor Paul Worley will become Australia's first national rural health commissioner.

The announcement will be made by Federal Assistant Minister for Health David Gillespie at the Rural Medicines Australia 2017 conference in Melbourne on Saturday.

The South Australian based professor has practised as a GP in a number of rural locations, and from 2007 to 2017 was Dean of Medicine at Flinders University in South Australia. He has also held senior leadership roles with the Rural Doctors Association of South Australia and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.

In his role as rural health commissioner, Professor Worley will consult with a wide range of health professionals and stakeholders to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.


15 June 2017

National Rural Health Commissioner

The Australian Senate has passed legislation to create the role of National Rural Health Commissioner. The Government committed to establish the Commissioner during the 2016 election.

The Commissioner will work with rural, regional and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of Government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.

In addition, the Commissioner will assist to better target Australian Government interventions to support access to services and quality of services.


15 May 2017

Federal Budget 2017/18 Highlights

The Federal Government handed down the 2017/18 Budget last week, with the following highlights:

  • $374.2m over two years to support the expanded rollout of the opt-out My Health Record model across Australia.
  • Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to administer $80 million over four years for psychosocial support for mental health patients.
  • $8.3 million in funding across 2017/18 to 2019/20 for palliative care coordination via PHNs through 10 trial sites.
  • Phased lifting of the Medicare indexation freeze. From 1 July 2017, GP bulk billing incentives will apply for concession holders and children under 16yrs; from 1 July 2018 this will extend to remaining GP and specialist consultations; and from 1 July 2019, to specialist procedures and allied health.

More information on the Australian Government’s Health Portfolio 2017/18 Budget is available from the Department of Health website.


20 April 2017

Government abolishes and replaces 457 visa

The Federal Coalition has announced the immediate abolition and replacement of Australia’s temporary employer sponsored skilled migration programme. The reforms include abolishing the Temporary Work visa (457 visa) and replacing it with a new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018. The new visa will have tighter conditions and a smaller number of eligible occupations. It will also be harder to progress to permanent residency from the new visa class.

It is important to note that existing 457 visas holders already working here are ‘grandfathered’ from the changes and will continue on the same conditions they have now.

Assistant Minister for Health, Dr David Gillespie has issued a media release to reassure doctors and rural communities on the impacts of the
Government’s changes to the temporary migration scheme, saying that "The changes announced this week will not have any significant impact on the ability of rural and regional areas to recruit temporary skilled overseas trained health professionals.”

A public consultation process will be held ahead of the main changes which come into effect in March 2018.

More information: Department of Immigration and Border Protection Fact Sheet


13 April 2017

Government announces 26 Regional Health Training Hubs & three new University Departments of Rural Health

Health and medical students will have greater opportunities to live, study and work in rural and regional Australia as part of the Federal Coalition’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program; an initiative aimed at boosting Australia’s regional and rural health workforce. Under the RHMT program $54.4 million has been allocated over 2016/17 to 2018/19 for new Regional Training Hubs and University Departments of Rural Health (UDRH). Assistant Minister for Health, Dr David Gillespie, has announced the locations of 26 regional training hubs and three new UDRHs, and the universities that will operate them.

More information on the new Regional Training Hubs and UDHRs is available from the Department of Health website.


20 February 2017

Government announces investment in health workforce agencies

The Federal Government has announced that it will invest $93 million in Australia's network of state Rural Workforce Agencies, with a focus on delivering more Australian-trained doctors and other health professionals to regional, rural and remote areas.

The network of Rural Workforce Agencies, including the NSW Rural Doctors Network, is involved in a range of on-the-ground activities to meet community need and health workforce demands in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Federal Government is continuing with a range of positive measures to deliver "more doctors to the bush", including the creation of a National Rural Health Commissioner, reform of medical training and distribution, and development of the rural generalist pathway to upskill GPs in regions who require a broader range of medical services.

More information is available from the Department of Health website.


8 February 2017

Rural Health Commissioner to champion health reform

The Federal Assistant Minister for Health has announced Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner will be an independent and high-profile advocate for regional, rural and remote health.

Dr David Gillespie will introduce the National Rural Health Commissioner Bill into Parliament to establish the role. The Commissioner will be a statutory office holder under the Health Insurance Act 1973.

The Coalition Government is providing $4.4 million to establish the Commissioner, who will work with communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.

The first task of the Commissioner will be to develop a National Rural Generalist Pathway, to improve access to training for doctors in regional, rural and remote Australia.


31 January 2017

Ministerial reshuffle

The Australian Government is handing the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program selection to the two General Practice Colleges. Federal Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie announced the Government will invest $220 million per annum on the AGPT and commncing in 2018, the selection of medical graduates for the program will be administered by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). The transfer of this function to the GP Colleges will bring them into line with other Australian specialist medical colleges and the way these colleges select trainees for specialist training pathways and programs.


30 January 2017

Ministerial reshuffle

Newly elected NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced that Brad Hazzard is to replace Jillian Skinner as Minister for Health (and Minister for Medical Research) following MP Skinner's decision to resign from politics. This Ministerial reshuffle follows recent changes to the Commonwealth ministry with the resignation of Sussan Ley and appointment of Greg Hunt as the new Minister for Health (and Sport). Other portfolio changes included the appointment of Dr David Gillespie to Assistant Minister for Rural Health and Ken Wyatt to Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health.




19 July 2016

New Cabinet and Ministry announced

Re-elected Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced his Cabinet and full Ministry with Sussan Ley MP retaining the portfolio of Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care. Ken Wyatt is staying on as Assistant Minister for Health, heading up the portfolio alongside Ley. Former gastroenterologist and National Party Member for Lyne, Dr David Gillespie MP has been appointed as the new Assistant Minister for Rural Health.


15 February 2016

Ministerial reshuffle: Fiona Nash

Senator Fiona Nash has been elevated to Federal Cabinet in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's recent Cabinet reshuffle. Minister Turnbull has given Minister Nash the additional Ministerial responsibilities of Regional Development and Regional Communications, and she has also been elected as Deputy Leader of the Nationals. Minister Nash now has responsibility for the three closely interconnected portfolios in her position as Minister for Regional Development, Regional Communications and Rural Health.


10 February 2016

DWS updated

The annual update of the District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) measure took place on Wednesday 10 February 2016. This measure is calculated by the Department of Health. 

To check the classification of your specific practice location using the search the map feature on the Doctor Connect website. Please note that this has implications for those recruiting Doctors who have Medicare restrictions.




11 December 2015

Funds announced to support aged care in rural and remote communities

The Australian Government has announced funding of $5.79 million to increase aged care places in rural and remote communities across Australia, as part of an integrated health and ageing initiative. A part of this package includes three new Multi-Purpose Services in NSW offering 52 residential places.

More information is available from the Department of Health.


9 October 2015

GP training providers announced

In-principle agreement has been reached with new providers for nine of the 11 geographic training regions for the administration of the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) programme. The new providers, including GP Synergy in NSW, will assume responsibility for the management of AGPT on 1 January 2016.

More information including a full list of all GP training providers in Australia is available from the Department of Health website.


21 September 2015

Ministerial reshuffle: Health

Fiona Nash has been promoted from Assistant Minister to Minister for Rural Health in the new frontbench announced by the recently appointed Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Sussan Ley retains her Cabinet post as Health Minister while the new Assistant Minister for Health is Ken Wyatt, the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to become a Federal Government frontbencher.


3 August 2015

Rural Health Report

The Garvan Research Foundation has released its inaugural Medical Research and Rural Health Report which brings together, for the first time, the most pertinent evidence-based data to better understand the health issues facing rural and regional populations across Australia.

The report shows that health outcomes for rural Australians are much poorer than for their urban counterparts and highlights some alarming statistics, including that:

  • the rate of suicide is 66% higher in country areas than in Australia's cities
  • the rate of suicide among young Indigenous people (aged 15-24 years) is five times higher than that for non-Indigenous people
  • farmers are twice as likely to die by suicide as the general employed public
  • the rate of suicide among men aged 15-29 who live outside major cities is twice as high as the general population
  • an estimated 20% of adults, including about 960,000 people living in regional, rural and remote areas, have experienced a mental disorder in the past year
  • deaths from all causes including chronic disease are 40% higher in remote areas
  • life expectancy is 2.5 years lower for males and 1.3 years lower for females for outer regional, remote and very remote areas compared with major cities and inner regional areas
  • the five-year relative survival for cancer decreases with increasing remoteness
  • diabetes ranks higher as a cause of death among people living in remote and very remote areas compared with regional and major city areas.

Download the Medical Research and Rural Health Garvan Report 2015


29 May 2015

Australian General Practice Training tenders open

The Federal Government has announced that tenders are now open for for GP Regional Training Organisations. Submissions close on 10 July 2015.

Tender information is available from the Department of Health website.


25 May 2015

GPRIP redesigned to attract doctors to rural and regional towns

Doctors in more than 150 rural NSW towns will receive higher incentives from 1 July this year under the redesigned GP Rural Incentives Program (GPRIP).

More information and a list of towns that will receive higher incentives under GPRIP is available from the Department of Health website.


22 May 2015

New PIP after hours incentive

The Federal Government has announced the new Practice Incentives Program (PIP) after hours incentive which will have five payment levels and be available to eligible general practices registered for the PIP. It will provide payments to accredited general practices that ensure their patients have access to quality after hours care.

The PIP after hours Incentive will be based on a practice's Standardised Whole Patient Equivalent (SWPE).

Information on the five payment levels for the new PIP after hours incentive is outlined on the Department of Health website.

Further details about eligibility requirements for each payment level will be provided in the PIP after hours incentive guidelines, which are expected to be released shortly.


13 May 2015

Federal Budget 2015: Health

Following yesterday's announcement of the Australian Government Budget, the 2015-2016 allocation of resources and health initiatives are now available from the Department of Health website.

Click here to go to the Health Portfolio Budget Statements.


11 April 2015

New Primary Health Networks announced

The Department of Health has announced the successful applicants to run the new Primary Health Networks (PHNs) throughout Australia. In addition to general health, the PHNs have six key priorities for targeted work in health workforce, mental health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, population health, eHealth and aged care.

Click here for more information including a list of successful applicants.


9 April 2015

New training regions for GP specialist training

The Department of Health has today announced new training regions and governance arrangements for the future delivery of GP specialist training across Australia.

Click here for more information including a map showing the new training regions.




23 December 2014

Federal Government Cabinet Reshuffle

As part of a recent cabinet reshuffle, the regionally-based Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley MP, has been appointed as the new Federal Health Minister. She joins Senator Fiona Nash, who will continue as the Federal Assistant Minister for Health.


31 October 2014

RDN welcomes government announcement to change the rural classification system

RDN has welcomed an announcement from Federal Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash, regarding changes to the District of Workforce Shortage and the Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) systems to help encourage more doctors to work in country towns.

Click here to download the Department of Health media release.


15 October 2014

Primary Health Networks

The Department of Health has today released the new Australia Primary Health Network (PHN) boundaries.

Click here for more information including a map showing the 30 PHNs across Australia.


21 July 2014

Outreach update

The Department of Health has this month approved the NSW Rural Doctors Network 2014-15 Outreach Plan that supports 1,063 visiting medical specialist, allied health and nurse services.

Continuing and new health outreach services in the plan will provide regular clinics for remote, regional and Aboriginal communities. These visiting services are designed to increase patient access in response to locally identified health priorities that include chronic disease, mental health, paediatric, maternity and hearing needs, amongst others.

RDN's network of more than 50 partner organisations that comprise Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, Local Health Districts, Medicare Locals and hospitals will deliver the planned outreach services at 133 towns in NSW and ACT.

For more information about RDN's Outreach program, services and vacancies, go to the RDN website.


30 April 2014

Orientation for new doctors

Walgett GP and RDN medical adviser, Dr Paul Collett will be one of a range of health workforce reps who will speak to 18 new rural NSW doctors at the RDN New GP Orientation Program on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 May 2014. Other speakers will represent RACGP, RVTS, FPNSW, university medical schools and RTPs. Topics will include indigenous health, family planning and sexual health, communication and cultural awareness, professional development, medico-legal issues, OTDnet, Workcover and RDN support programs. The event will also give participants the opportunity to connect with other doctors new to rural NSW.


6 March 2014

Medical students: GO RURAL … and get a taste of the Central West!

Fifteen medical students will be selected to attend a three day trip to Canowindra, Cowra and Grenfell in the vibrant Central West region of New South Wales to experience the many rewards that come with living and working in a rural community. This fantastic opportunity is part of the national Go Rural program funded by Rural Health Workforce Australia (RHWA) on behalf of the Department of Health and is organised by RDN.

Friday 2 – Sunday 4 May 2014

More information and application form: Go Rural 2014

3 March 2014

Medical Board revised guidelines, code and policy

The Medical Board of Australia has released a suite of documents that will come into effect from mid-March 2014. These documents are:

revised Good Medical Practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia
revised Guidelines for advertising regulated health services
revised Guidelines for mandatory notifications, and
new Social media policy.

Registered medical practitioners need to familiarise themselves with these documents to ensure their practice meets the Medical Board’s expectations when they come into effect.

Health professionals should pay particular attention to the new social media policy and the revised advertising guidelines.

For instance, doctors whose patients write complimentary comments about their clinical care on Facebook or Twitter, face fines of up to $5000 if they do not try to have the comments deleted. Comments about a doctor's clinical care - on any website - are deemed to be testimonials and as such break the law.

If a doctor does not take "reasonable steps" to have these comments removed, they could be liable for a maximum $5000 fine, or investigated by the Medical Board in serious cases.

The only online comments that are acceptable are those where a patient only discusses non-clinical matters.

The guidelines state that "Testimonials can distort a person's judgement in his or her choice of health practitioner. They may misrepresent the skills and or expertise of practitioners and create unrealistic expectations."

Please note that doctors are only expected to take action after becoming aware of the testimonial.

The Medical Board claim that the new guidelines aim to clarify that the ban on testimonials applies to both traditional and digital communications.

For more information, go to the Medical Board of Australia website.




18 November 2013

Supporting medical students to go rural

Eighteen NSW rural councils along with the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW are sponsoring medical student placements in New South Wales country towns as part of the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) commitment to attracting and retaining health professionals to the bush.

RDN administers the Bush Bursary and Country Women’s Association (CWA) scholarships, which provide students with $3000 for one year, during which time they spend two weeks in their sponsoring rural area experiencing work and life in a rural community.

As well as spending time with local GPs and other medical specialists, the scholarship recipients will visit allied and community health services including the pharmacy, aged care facility and the Aboriginal Medical Service.

The 20 participating students who will complete their placement between now and January are from the Universities of Wollongong, Sydney, Notre Dame, Western Sydney, Newcastle, New England and the Australian National University.

2012 Bush Bursary recipient, Ellen Hedditch, completed her placement in Parkes and said, “I met many members of the local community; from local doctors and nurses to pharmacists, business owners, council members and local residents. I was given a private tour of the Dish and the mines, and was also part of the Christmas Parade!”

Another Bush Bursary recipient in 2012, Emily Rushton, completed her placement in Deniliquin and said of her experience, “All of the doctors I was placed with were receptive to my presence, and were happy to take the time to explain new concepts to me. Hands on experience at this early stage of my degree was fantastic at both cementing the coursework I have already covered in my head, and in reaffirming that rural clinical medicine is the path I want to take.”

The 18 local councils taking part in the 2013 program include Bega, Berrigan, Brewarrina, Deniliquin, Goulburn Mulwaree, Griffith, Guyra, Gwydir Valley, Lachlan, Leeton, Moree, Narrabri, Orange, Parkes, Temora, Tumbarumba, Yass Valley and Wellington. The CWA is also sponsoring two students, who will be placed in Orange and Narrabri.

For more information about RDN scholarships and cadetships click here.


3 October 2013

More political health news

The funding responsibility for most Indigenous health services is to be coordinated by a new Indigenous Health Service Delivery Division, which replaces OATSIH.


30 September 2013

Post-Election Ministry/Portfolio Shuffle

The following provides an update on the post Federal election and Liberal Government Ministry/portfolio shuffling:

  • Peter Dutton is the new Minister for Health and Minister for Sport
  • Fiona Nash is the Assistant Minister for Health (and will have responsibility for Rural Health)
  • Melinda Pavey is the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health
  • Ageing goes to the Social Services portfolio, so the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) becomes the Department of Health (DoH)
  • Nigel Scullion is the Minister for Indigenous Affairs
  • Jane Halton remains Secretary for Health, though more shuffling of Department heads is expected after the Budget next year.


29 September 2013

Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia

More than a million Australians living in rural and remote areas are denied the access to basic medical care that most city dwellers take for granted, a new report released today by the Grattan Institute has found.

An investment of around $30 million a year would go a long way towards solving Australia’s worst shortages. The funds would support a greater role for pharmacists, especially in providing repeat prescriptions and vaccinations, and the introduction of a new health worker, the physician assistant, to expand care in remote areas.

Click here to download the Access All Areas Grattan Report.


2 September 2013

DRISS - a great move for dentists

If you're a dentist, there's never been a better time to make the move to rural and remote Australia where there is a real need for more dental services. The new federally funded Dental Relocation and Infrastructure Support Scheme (DRISS) can help you establish yourself in a rural community that will welcome your skills.

DRISS includes relocation grants up to $120,000 and the opportunity to apply for infrastructure grants up to $250,000 to help pay for equipment and fit-out of dental facilities.

First round applications are open now until 4 October 2013.

Apply now or register your interest online or call the DRISS information line on 1800 475 433.


22 July 2013

Important information for IMGs on residency status and access to Medicare

There has been a recent surge in the number of Doctors moving from Temporary to Permanent residency. This change in residency status has important financial and service implications for non-Vocationally Registered (non-VR) Doctors working in general practice. Practice Managers and Doctors who are aware of a change in residency status of an International Medical Graduates (IMG) must contact the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) as soon as possible to ensure patient services and access to Medicare are not affected.

Please call the recruitment team at RDN on 02 4924 8060 for advice and assistance.


1 July 2013

The spirit of the bush

NSW Rural Medical Family Network (RMFN) President Todd Fergusson, shares his fantastic and unique experiences as a GP spouse in rural NSW.

"For most of us that have grown up in the bush, the "pays us back threefold" becomes obvious over time"...."It all adds to the rich tapestry that makes up rural NSW. That’s what the Rural Medical Family Network is here for – to provide support in the interim, while the apparentness of the benefits become obvious."

You can read his inspiring story here.


4 June 2013

City girl goes bush

NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) Cadet Dr Teena Downton, shares her experience as a junior doctor in Broken Hill NSW.

"I encourage students and junior doctors to take my story as an example and consider experiencing rural for yourself, that is, if you haven't already. There are some seriously amazing opportunities to be had." 

You can read her inspiring story here.


31 May 2013

Review of Australian Government Health Workforce Programs

A review of Australian Government health workforce programs, announced as part of the 2012-13 Federal Budget, has been undertaken. Current rural and workforce classification systems were considered as part of the review, including the Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Areas (ASGC-RA) and Districts of Workforce Shortage (DoWS) systems.

The final report known as the Mason Review was publicly released on 24 May 2013.

As a result of the review, the Government has announced the implementation of an improved geographical classification system for health workforce programs which will consider reforms to the DoWS system as part of this process.


14 May 2013

New BLOG: Rural Health - a life changing difference!

NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) Board member Dr Ros Bullock from Cowra NSW, is blogging for the RHWA 'Rural Champions' site hosted by DoHA.

"Working in rural medicine is very much like a choose your own adventure story. So if you are keen and willing, and there is appropriate training out there, you can do it!"

You can read her inspiring first entry here.


23 April 2013

Health Debate

If you missed last night’s Q&A health debate on ABC TV featuring Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Opposition Health spokesman Peter Dutton, you can watch it online at qanda.


11 March 2013

Important changes to RLRP guidelines and criteria

The Rural Locum Relief Program (RLRP) enables doctors with certain provider number restrictions to obtain a Medicare provider number to work in designated rural areas.

Australian citizens and permanent Australian residents must be vocationally recognised as a General Practitioner or have Fellowship of an Australian College of General Practice in order to obtain a Medicare provider number.

Doctors who face Provider Number restrictions because of this requirement may apply to join the RLRP.

In New South Wales the RLRP is administered by the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN). RDN has identified doctors who have reached or exceeded their four (4) year limit for the RLRP and as a consequence are now unable to access a provider number under this program.

Until recently RDN was not enforcing the 4 year time limit for the RLRP. This approach has resulted in doctors who have reached or exceeded their time limit on the Program and as a consequence, are now unable to attain Fellowship.

RDN has amended its RLRP guidelines and criteria in order to more effectively enforce the 4 year time limit for both current and new applicants. This change brings NSW in line with the national approach to RLRP.

It is important to note that these changes are in place from today, Monday 11 March 2013.

For more information, email Katie Keles, Project Officer - Rural Health Workforce Programs at RDN or call 02 4924 8060.

To view the current RLRP Guidelines & Criteria go to the RLRP webpage.


21 January 2013

RDN Training Grants - Now Includes New Family Planning Course

NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) offers Training Grants to doctors undertaking RDN's Rural Emergency Skills Training (REST) or the Family Planning’s Certificate Course in Sexual & Reproductive Health (NB: this training must be a stated condition on registration).

The RDN Training Grant also now includes Family Planning's new course 'Reproductive & Sexual Health in the Australian Context'. This two-day course is designed for GPs with limited experience in reproductive and sexual health. Participants are required to sit in one clinic session (for observation only) within three months of their workshop attendance. Completion of this course equips GPs to commence the Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia (SH&FPA) Certificate in Sexual and Reproductive Health. The first course is being offered 10-11 April 2013. For more information or to enrol in the course, visit the Family Planning NSW website.

More information about RDN Training Grants.


7 January 2013

Medical interns help close the gap in health services for rural NSW communities

Under the NSW Rural Resident Medical Officer Cadetship Scheme, twelve (12) medical graduates are set to commence their internships in Wagga Wagga, Tamworth, Dubbo, Albury and Orange Base Hospitals, helping to fill the health services gap for communities in these rural NSW towns. Read the full media release.


2 January 2013

Intoducing the ACI's Rural Health Network

Are you interested in becoming involved in the Agency for Clinical Innovation’s Rural Health Network? Click here for a copy of the Draft Terms of Reference and to register your interest, contact Jenny Preece at the ACI via email: jenny.preece@aci.health.nsw.gov.au or phone: 02 66927716 by COB 11 January 2013.




2 November 2012

Rural Health Professionals Program (RHPP) now in full swing in NSW

The Rural Health Professionals Program (RHPP) is now in full swing in NSW. Latest highlights include the placement of graduate physios, pharmacists and Occupational Therapists in several rural towns including Bega, Cooma, Broken Hill, Coffs Harbour and Lismore.

A particular highlight is a midwife who commences this month in the Narrandera and Leeton areas. This exciting collaboration with the Murrumbidgee Medicare Local is the midwife's PhD project to establish a new model of group centred pregnancy care with a focus on Indigenous and disadvantaged mothers. This model has had exciting results overseas with vastly improved health outcomes for both mother and babies. RDN sees great opportunities in such collaborations.

RDN is working with six British dentists, five of whom have started work in Taree, Forster and Port Macquarie. Aged Care Nurses and Mental Health professionals continue to be in great demand across the state and RHPP has so far placed eight Mental Health professionals in Moree, Narrabri, Inverell, Tamworth and Dubbo. Four Aged Care Nurses have been placed in Narrandera, Orange and Coffs Harbour, with two due to start in Tamworth.

10 October 2012

Go Rural Information Evening - Free event for NSW medical students, Register now!

What: This free event is for NSW medical students in any year interested in finding out more about rural medical practice. The evening will offer students an opportunity to network with other rurally minded students and doctors, and find out about the many incentives available to Go Rural. Drinks and canapes will be served followed by a series of short presentations from doctors who have spent time training and working in rural NSW.
When: Friday 30 November 2012 6:30pm - 9:00pm
Where: Oceanic West room Crowne Plaza, Coogee Beach
Registration: Places are limited to please email Melanie Lewis on mlewis@nswrdn.com.au or call on 02 8337 8100 to reserve your place.


7 September 2012

2013 NSW Rural Resident Medical Officer Cadetship for Indigenous Medical Students – Closing Date for Applications Extended to 22 October 2012

The closing date for applications for the NSW Rural Resident Medical Officer Cadetship for Indigenous Medical Students has been extended until Monday 22 September 2012.

Funded by the NSW Ministry of Health, Cadets receive up to $30,000 during their final two or three years at university and in return spend two years at an eligible rural base hospital after graduation. There are two Cadetships available for Indigenous Medical Students who are interested in a career in rural medicine. Additional benefits include rural relocation allowance and participation in NSW Rural Doctors Network conferences and networking weekends.

To be eligible for a Cadetship, students must demonstrate an understanding of the issues facing rural communities and be motivated to undertake two of their three post graduate years at NSW Rural Base Hospitals (Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Orange, Dubbo or Albury).

Please note that the ATO considers the Cadetship assessable income, and it may also affect eligibility for the maximum value of the HECS Reimbursement Scheme.

More information and application form.


15 June 2012

New DVD on our YouTube Channel: RDN Cadetships

A great new DVD has been posted on our YouTube channel: Dr Lauren Cone, former RDN cadet, on the benefits of RDN cadetships and rural general practice. Watch now.


12 May 2012

RDN welcomes Federal investment in dental for country areas

RDN welcomes the Federal Budget allocation of $77.7 million to attract more dentists to rural and remote areas. Rural and remote communities face great difficulty in accessing affordable local dental care. Poor oral health has a significant wider impact on rural and remote communities where there is often co-morbidity with chronic and oral disease.

For the last five years RDN has utilised its own funds to distribute dental resources to rural hospitals so that doctors, who undergo specific training, can treat after-hour dental emergencies. While this resource continues to be in high demand it does not replace the need for comprehensive oral health services provided by dentists. RDN is aware that the number of emergency dental presentations that take place at some rural hospitals is high.

The inclusion of infrastructure grants in the dental package is vital so that services can be delivered in a way that optimises patient safety and efficiency. Hopefully, this will also enable more dental students to undertake training in rural areas.


7 May 2012

RDN website earns afacelift

You’ll notice a fresher, younger looking RDN face online soon: our website has been a good old girl but it’s time for a facelift. We anticipate the new look to be completed in the coming month. The core structure of the site will remain the same so you’ll still be able to find your way around (cadets: we listened to you at the annual conference last year!).

For those with RDN online services accounts (My RDN Login and/or Succession Planning and/or HOAP Data Module): there will be no interruption to service during the redesign.


27 April 2012

Important notice for GPs gaining Permanent Residency

If you’re a Temporary Resident GP working in rural NSW and not on a training program or if your GP practice currently employs a Temporary Resident GP, this notice may apply to you: all Temporary Resident GPs who gain their Permanent Residency visa will need to notify RDN before they notify Medicare otherwise their provider number may be cancelled without notice.

If you’re a Temporary Resident who’s due to receive your Permanent Residency soon, please contact the RDN Recruitment team on 02 4924 8060 at least 6 weeks before your Permanent Visa is granted so we can organise a new provider number without any disruption for you.


20 April 2012

UK nurses and allied health professionals: meet our team on your turf

Country NSW, Australia, is looking for quality, experienced health professionals who want to live, work and make a real difference in our regional, rural and remote communities. Working in country communities can provide you with a great salary, good schools for your children, work opportunities for your spouse/partner and a wonderful lifestyle with good food, wine, weather and ample social activities to make the whole family happy.

This May in Dublin, Manchester and Glasgow, Health Careers Australia (HCA) is holding a series of information days with real job opportunities along with support and advice to make your journey to Australia and your employment as smooth as possible. The Australian Department of Immigration & Citizenship will also be presenting seminars on visa and immigration advice for you and your family. Our Nursing and Allied Health team will be there too so come and say G'day.

Dublin: Saturday 12 May 2012
Manchester: Wednesday 16 May 2012
Glasgow: Saturday 19 May 2012

This event is FREE to attend but registration is required. More information at http://www.healthcareersaustralia.com/


16 April 2012

RDN seeks new General Manager

After a decade and a half, Mark Lynch, our General Manager has decided to retire and commence the next phase of his life. Mark has made a significant and ongoing contribution to RDN and its achievements over these years. We’re now on the hunt for someone to replace those hard-to-fill shoes. More information about the role.


16 April 2012

New Rural Generalist Training Program

The new Rural Generalist Training Program is a NSW Government initiative and is being developed by a working party representative of all stakeholder groups ready for its first intake in 2013.

There will be 15 positions in 2013 for PGY2 JMOs to apply to enter a Procedural Training year in PGY3 (anaesthetics or obstetrics) and then continue on a supported pathway in line with the curriculum of their chosen General Practice Training requirements while having the opportunity to use their advanced skills at a rural health facility. There will be additional workshop and network activities. Applications open 26 July 2012.

PGY1 JMOs may also be potential applicants; they would enter in their procedural training year in 2014 and progress on through the remaining 2 years.

A Statewide Director for the program is currently being recruited to provide support/liaison for trainees to have an integrated training plan utilising advanced skills within LHDs and to assist in sourcing employment and career options based on workforce need post program.

Further information and registrations of interest can be directed to the Health Education and Training Institute (HETI, formerly CETI): www.ruralceti.health.nsw.gov.au/initiatives/rural_generalist_training_program, www.ceti.nsw.gov.au, email info@heti.nsw.gov.au or phone 02 9844 6551.


2 February 2012

Indigenous artwork competition

RDN is holding a competition for Indigenous medical students in NSW to design the artwork for the 2013 Rural Resident Medical Officer Cadetship for Indigenous Medical Students brochure and application form.

Various types of artwork will be considered including designs produced by hand and computer graphic design.

The winning artist will receive $250 and an RDN merchandise pack.

Click here for more information and to download the flyer and application form.




23 November 2011

Country doctors urge young medicos to “Go Rural”

A new campaign to attract young doctors and medical students to careers in rural New South Wales is being launched this Friday 25 November.

NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) is hosting the “Go Rural” event as part of its annual Rural GPs Conference, being held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Coogee Beach.

More than 70 medical students and early career doctors are expected at the event, where they will rub shoulders with experienced rural doctors.

“The event is a great opportunity for young doctors to learn about how rewarding a career can be in rural practice. We also think it’s a great way to introduce the next generation of health professionals to some icons of country practice,” says RDN General Manager, Mr Mark Lynch.

The young guests will enjoy a casual dinner, followed by a series of presentations on the various stages of a career in rural medicine, culminating in a Q&A panel featuring experienced rural doctors.

“Go Rural” is funded by the Australian Government and managed by Rural Health Workforce, the peak body for the not-for-profit state Rural Workforce Agencies including RDN.

Find out more about “Go Rural” at www.rhwa.org.au/gorural
Student registrations for the event: call 02 8337 8100 and ask for Melanie.
Media registrations for the event: call 02 4924 8000 and ask for Gina.


14 November 2011

Telehealth tips and technology reviews

RDN has been evaluating the effectiveness of telehealth specialist consultations for approximately 12 months through a telehealth pilot involving a group of specialists and rural partners participating in the Medical Specialists Outreach Assistance Program (MSOAP). We’ve just launched a dedicated telehealth page on our web site where you can access tips, technical information and reviews of six technologies tested during the last 6 months. Click on GP Resources and Support/Telehealth.


26 August 2011

Indigenous Cadetship closing date extended

The closing date for applications for the NSW Rural Resident Medical Officer Cadetship for Indigenous Medical Students has been extended until Monday 19 September 2011.

Funded by the NSW Department of Health, NSW Rural Resident Medical Officer Cadets receive up to $30,000 during their university years and in return spend two years at an eligible base hospital after graduation. There are three Cadetships available for Indigenous Medical Students who are interested in a career in rural medicine. Additional benefits to becoming a Cadet include contribution to relocation costs and participation in NSW Rural Doctors Network conferences and networking weekends.

To be eligible for a Cadetship, students must demonstrate an understanding of the realities of rural medical practice, both positive and negative, display a commitment to and interest in rural practice and lifestyle and be motivated to undertake two of their three post graduate years at NSW Rural Base Hospitals (Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Orange, Dubbo or Albury).

Please note that the Cadetship is considered assessable income by the ATO and may also affect eligibility for the maximum value of the HECS Reimbursement Scheme. Each Cadet is eligible for a relocation allowance to help pay costs associated with their move to the country.

For further information about how to apply for the Cadetships, click on the ‘Students & Scholarships’ tab or email students@nswrdn.com.au.


21 July 2011

AGPN to oversee Medicare Locals

The federal government has provided funding for 19 Medicare Locals (MLs) initially, and plans to create 62 across the country by July 2012.

MLs will work with GPs, nurses, allied health professionals, Indigenous health organisations and Local Health Districts/Local Hospital Networks to identify and respond to gaps in local health services. They also will help patients and professionals navigate the complex health system more easily.

To achieve this outcome the government has announced that the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) will establish a new national body to support and coordinate MLs.

The government is keen for the GP network to take control of MLs from state-based organisations in 2013.


1 July 2011

Health refirm crunch time

July 1 marks crunch time in primary care as the Federal government’s planned health reforms get underway.

Here are some of the new reforms we can expect to see from today:


Doctors can receive $6,000 if they start using videoconferencing equipment to provide at least one teleheath service in the next year. They will be eligible for $40 if they are present during a telehealth session between a patient and a consulting specialist outside the "inner metropolitan" centres.


The first 19 of the government’s planned 62 Medicare Locals will begin operating, including four in New South Wales, four in Victoria, five in Queensland, two in Western Australia, two in South Australia, and one each in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.


The $126 million hotline, Healthdirect Australia, run by Medibank can be used by patients to still firstly speak to a registered nurse and then be referred to one of 100 GPs for a telephone consultation if necessary.


6 June 2011

First 15 Medicare Locals announced

The first of Australia's Medicare Locals - to be up and running from 1 July 2011 - have been announced.

In New South Wales, the first group will include MLs for Western Sydney, Hunter Urban, New England and Murumbidgee.

The four new Medicare Locals in NSW will be operated by WentWest Division of General Practice in Western Sydney which is expected to be granted about $4.8 million, the Hunter Urban Division of General Practice ($3 million) and divisions in New England ($1.7 million) and Riverina ($1.7 million).

The budget for establishing Medicare Locals and a national program to improve access to after-hours care will be $416 million over four years.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon pledged that GPs would always be at the centre of primary health care in Australia.

The new MLs will work with GPs, nurses, allied health practitioners, indigenous health organisations and the new Local Health Districts to identify and respond to gaps in local services and generate better targeted services.

For more information on the new MLs go to the Your Health website.


21 April 2011

Update on OTD inquiry (report in Australian Doctor on (19/4/11)

Asylum seekers are having their residency applications processed in less time that it takes International Medical Graduates (IMGs) to gain registration in Australia, medical recruiters claim.

A parliamentary inquiry looking at ways to improve the registration process for IMGs has heard that many IMGs are shunning Australia in favour of New Zealand and other countries because of the barriers they face with registration.

Martina Stanley, director of Alecto Australia medical recruitment agency, described the registration system for IMGs as “like a bowl of spaghetti”.

Ms Stanley told the inquiry the Federal Department of Immigration and Citizenship processed asylum seekers quicker than IMGs.

“The Human Rights Commissioner…made the point that the government has the aim of getting [asylum seekers] through the system within six months. We cannot get doctors through the system in six months and they have paperwork,” she said.

“They are legal immigrants, They are people who are qualified professionals and…that alone gives us an indication of how complex the system is.”

CEO of the NSW Rural Doctors Network, Dr Ian Camerson, told the inquiry that IMGs working overseas were learning that it was becoming tougher to gain registration in Australia and that it was impacting the number applying to work here.

Dr Cameron said the main barrier was the time it took for IMGs to get their Australian medical registration.

“Anecdotally, we are finding that the number of inquiries [from IMGs wanting to work in Australia] is dropping off,” he said. “We have been told that it is partly because the work has got around that it is too complicated to be doing it here.”

The committee handling the inquiry will hand down its findings later this year.


18 April 2011

Primary Care Infrastructure Grants - Rural practices urged to apply

A new round of primary care infrastructure grants has been announced by the Department of Health and Ageing.

The $52.5 million round of grants will build on the 2010 round of 240 grants announced in November last year and aim to help local doctors to expand the services they offer to their communities.

The grants can be used to upgrade or extend existing premises, such as by constructing specialised practice nurse facilities, clinical training rooms, treatment rooms fitted with the latest medical equipment, rooms for patients to attend preventative health education sessions, and facilities that support extended hours of service.

At least one-third of the total funding available for the grants will be provided to regional and remote Australia.

The primary care infrastructure grants are part of the Government’s 2010-11 Budget commitment of $370.2 million over three years to improve primary health care infrastructure and includes $233 million for additional GP Super Clinics.

There are three types of primary care infrastructure grants, with grants of up to $150,000 each, up to $300,000 each and up to $500,000 each.

For more information and to apply, visit the GP Super Clinics Program 2011-12 Primary Care Infrastructure Grants Round on the Department's website.


5 April 2011

New Minister and DG for NSW Health

Jillian Skinner MP has been announced as the Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research portfolios within the new New South Wales government and Dr Mary Foley had been appointed Director General of the NSW Health Department.


25 March 2011

Public hearing for OTDs inquiry

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing will hold a public hearing on Thursday 31 March 2011 to discuss the registration processes and support available for Overseas Trained Doctors (OTDs) seeking full Australian registration.

The Committee will speak with representatives of the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) and a panel of OTDs regarding their experiences with the Occupational English Test - a requirement for those seeking registration as a medical practitioner. A number of specialist medical colleges will also provide a further insight into their assessment processes.

The program is following:

9:30am - NSW Department of Health
10:15am - NSW Rural Doctors Network
11:15am - Doctor’s Forum into the Occupational English Test
12:15pm - Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges
1:30pm - Specialist Colleges Forum

The hearing will be held in The Jubilee Room, Parliament of NSW, Macquarie Street on 31 March 2011 and webcast live.

Click here to read RDN's submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Registration Processes and Support for OTDs.


25 March 2011

Cost and access barriers to seeing a GP

About 6% of patients avoid or delay seeing a GP because of the cost, according to a new report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Cost was also cited by one in ten patients as a reason for delaying or not getting their prescription medicine, according to the report released this week.

In addition, almost 5% of people - about a million Australians - said there had been times when they had been unable to access a GP when they needed to.

Almost a quarter of people living in regional, rural or remote areas felt they had to wait longer than was acceptable for an appointment with a GP, compared with 16% of those living in major cities. People living in regional and remote areas were also almost five times as likely as those living in cities to travel more than one hour to see a GP.

A shortage of GPs was a factor for about 5% of patients visiting an emergency department, and almost a quarter of patients visited an ED because of the time of day or week, when regular general practices may have been closed.


11 March 2011

Medicare Locals - more, sooner

More Medicare Locals will be created and some will be established sooner under the Australian Governments renewed primary care focus. Despite agreeing in principle to 57 Medicare Local boundaries prior to Christmas last year, the Federal Government has now decided that some of them are too large, and will increase the number so they can serve smaller populations.

The first wave of Medicare Locals will commence in July this year with a second wave to commence in January 2012 and the remainder to commence in July 2012. Under the Government's new plans, Medicare Locals will be funded to fast-track the establishment of face-to-face GP after-hours services.


10 January 2011

Local Health Networks replace Area Health Services

From January 1, new Local Health Networks (LHNs) replace existing Area Health Services.

The NSW Government has establised 18 LHNs including seven geographically based LHNs to cover rural and regional New South Wales.

Fifteen Governing Councils will be responsible for ensuring each LHN is accountable and deliveing effective and efficient health services and performing against its targets.




6 December 2010

Grants for GPs to train in Anaesthetics

General Practitioners practising in ASGC RA 2-5 locations are being offered the opportunity to receive grant funding to help them gain the qualification 'Advanced Rural Skills Training in Anaesthesia'.

The anaesthetics component of the General Practitioner Procedural Training Support Program (GPPTSP) pays successful applicants a total of $40,000 over a two-year period.

For more information including the selection criteria and online application form go to the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine website.


8 November 2010

Maternity funds increase for rural GPs

The government has announced an increase to funding in maternity training for rural and remote GPs. The funding will assist GP training in obstetric services and is offered through subsidies to GPs who qualify for the General Pracitioner Procedural Training Support Program (GPPTSP). The funding boost is in response to the government's Maternity Services Review report, which found there was a need to improve the choices available to pregnant women, including better access to high quality maternity services and more support for the maternity services workforce. This is particularly needed in rural and remote Australia.

The funding will mean that many rural GPs will be able to increase the level of services they are able to offer to their local communities, and this will ultimately have benefits for the health and well-being of many rural and remote patients.

GPs can find more information and apply for funding at the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website.


18 October 2010

Latest figures on the Australian medical workforce

The supply of employed medical practitioners increased between 2004 and 2008, from 283 to 304 full-time equivalent practitioners per population of 100,000. The increase reflected a 20.5% rise in practitioner numbers. The gender balance continued to shift, with women making up 35% of practitioners in 2008 compared to 33% in 2004. The average hours worked by male practitioners declined from 47.1 to 45.4 hours, while hours worked by female practitioners changed marginally from 37.6 to 37.7 hours.

The main findings of the Medical Labour Force 2008 report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) include:

In 2008, there were 78,909 registered medical practitioners. The number of practitioners increased by 20.5% between 2004 and 2008.

• The number of medical practitioners in the labour force (i.e. employed in or looking for work in medicine in Australia) increased by 19.4% between 2004 and 2008, from 59,004 to 70,431.

• Between 2004 and 2008, the number of medical practitioners actually employed in medicine increased by 18.0%, from 58,211 to 68,689.

• The average weekly hours worked by employed medical practitioners decreased from 44.0 hours in 2004 to 42.7 hours in 2008.

• Despite a 2.9% decrease in average hours worked from 2004 to 2008, the overall supply of employed medical practitioners increased from 318 to 341 full-time equivalents (FTE) per 100,000 population (based on a 40-hour working week), due to an increase of 18.0% in employed medical practitioner numbers.

• Regionally, medical practitioner supply ranged from 376 FTE per 100,000 population in “major cities” to 187 FTE per 100,000 population in “outer regional” areas.

• The average age of employed medical practitioners in 2008 was 45.6 years, which was comparable with 2004, at 45.5 years.

• Females continued to increase their share of the medical practitioner workforce, making up 35.0% of employed practitioners in 2008 (up from 32.4% in 2004). Among clinicians, in 2008, the female share varied between types of clinical practice, accounting for 49.3% of hospital non-specialists, compared with 23.6% of specialists.

The Medical Labour Force 2008 report is available from the AIHW website.


7 October 2010

New AMC-Accredited pathway to General Registrayion for IMGs

The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine's (ACRRMs) Competent Authority Pathway assessment for general practice has been accredited by the Australian Medical Council (AMC). The pathway is now open to receive International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who have significant experience as GPs and wish to achieve general registration.

On ACRRMs Competent Authority Pathway, medical graduates are placed in accredited general practice positions in Australia to undertake 12 months supervised practice. Successful completion of the supervised period culminates in a recommendation for general registration. The pathways assessment process uses the workplace-based assessment tool, Multi-Source Feedback (MSF), and supervisor reports to provide impartial feedback on the IMGs progress throughout their year of supervised practice. At the end of that period, ACRRM considers whether to formally recommend that the AMC and National Medical Board offer the doctor general registration.

ACRRM is the only College accredited to date to assess IMG GPs via the unique MSF process.

For more information, go to the ACCRM website.


6 October 2010

New Fderal Ministerial Team for Health

Following the 2010 federal election, the Ministers with health portfolio responsibilities are:

• Minister for Health and Ageing: Nicola Roxon
• Minister for Mental Health and Ageing: Mark Butler
• Minister for Indigenous Health: Warren Snowdon
• Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing: Catherine King

The dedicated portfolio of Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery has been cut, but may fall within the new Regional Australia and Regional Development portfolio.

For more information go to the Department of Health and Ageing website.


8 September 2010

New Government commits to additional regional spending on health

The newly appointed Federal Labour Government has announced a commitment to additional health investment in regional Australia.

The Government will open a new round of the “Health and Hospitals Fund”, of which there is $1.8 billion remaining, and this round will be exclusively for regional Australia.

For the first time, the Government will provide a “one-third guarantee” in new investments in regional Australia, with an aim to improve health services around the country.

At least $41 million of the $123 million provided for in the 2010-11 Budget will be spent to upgrade general practices, primary care and community health services, and Aboriginal Medical Services.

These commitments come on top of investments in regional Australia that the Government already committed to during the 2010 election campaign.


13 August 2010

It pays to be a rural GP, study finds

When it comes to pay and job satisfaction, country doctors seem to have the perfect prescription for a rewarding career.

Not only are rural GPs better paid but they are just as satisfied as their city counterparts, according to new research covering more than 2,300 Australian doctors.

The study found that earnings for GPs in outer regional, rural and remote Australia are 11.5% higher than GPs working in major cities.

Commenting on the findings, Rural Health Workforce Australia CEO, Dr Kim Webber, said it dispelled the myth that rural medicine was a second-class option.

“This research shows that rural doctors enjoy very satisfying, well paid careers,” she said. “We need to get the message out there that rural practice is an attractive choice, while at the same time acknowledging there are places with under-serviced health needs.

“Rural medicine has so much to offer doctors. Not only is the pay great for many rural GPs, but their families enjoy the community spirit that thrives in small towns.”

The GP pay findings were reported in the latest research paper from MABEL - Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life. MABEL is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and produced by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with Monash University.

Apart from the financial rewards, the research shows that country doctors are generally as happy with their lot as urban GPs - with GPs from all population areas reporting very high professional satisfaction with freedom, variety, working conditions, opportunities and colleagues.

Overall satisfaction rated highly at about 85% across all town population sizes. Satisfaction with remuneration was slightly higher in smaller rural towns. This is linked to financial incentives to work in rural areas combined with reduced practice and living costs.

There are a range of incentives for rural GPs, including new payments of up to $120,000 for city doctors to relocate to rural and remote areas (the MABEL research was completed before the newer incentives came into place in July).

Researchers commented that the high job satisfaction of current rural GPs is not translating to Australian medical students choosing rural medicine as their career path. Dr Webber said this highlighted the need for more positive messages that promote rural medicine as a satisfying professional career choice.

“We know there are a range of factors that determine where someone chooses to work - and our Rural Workforce Agencies are very experienced at matching doctors to the right community,” said Dr Webber.


1 July 2010

Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Area

There have been several changes to important information on this website.

These changes result from the introduction of the National Medical Registration System and are also because some RDN programs are in the process of transitioning to the Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) system. RA is replacing Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) as the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing measure of remoteness for different geographic regions.

The use of the ASGC-RA as a basis for many Australian and NSW Government rural health programs commences on 1 July 2010.

The General Practice Rural Incentives Program (GPRIP) is included in this. GPRIP has three components, including the:

  • GP Component which replaces the Rural Retention Program
  • Relocation Grant Component
  • Registrar Component

Fact sheets on the aforementioned are available on the Doctor Connect website (NB: some criteria for these have not been announced)

Two programs have not yet changed and it is important to seek advice on these.

The Rural Locum Relief Program, administered in NSW by RDN, will continue with the current - largely RRMA based - criteria until 1 January 2011. This means that some towns classified as RA 2 may be able to get a doctor on Conditional Registration under Area of Need and the doctor may not be able to get a Provider Number.

The 5-Year Scheme will continue according to current geographical criteria until 1 January 2011.

For rural New South Wales, the change to ASGC means:

  • RRMA 1 or 2 to RA 2 - impacts on 41 practices and 120 doctors and involves nine Divisions/Networks of General Practice (GP Network Northside, Sutherland, Macarthur, Illawarra, GP Access, Hunter Rural, Nepean, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury-Hills).
  • RRMA 2 to RA 1 - impacts on 36 practices and 111 doctors, and involves five Divisions/Networks of General Practice (Illawarra, GP Access, Hunter Rural, Southern and Tweed).


22 June 2010

NSW Rural Resident Medical Officer Cadetship for Indigneous medical students

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students who are interested in rural medicine and are studying in NSW/or who completed Year 12 in NSW are encouraged to apply for the Cadetship.

Cadets receive $15,000pa and in return spend two years at an eligible base hospital after graduation. Additional benefits to becoming a Cadet include contribution to relocation costs and participation in NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) conferences and networking weekends.

The Cadetship is funded by the NSW Department of Health and administered by RDN. Applications close 2 August 2010. For more information please email students@nswrdn.com.au


7 June 2010

Have your say on the PGPPP in NSW

The Post Graduate Prevocational Placement Program (PGPPP) is growing in New South Wales.

Facilitated by the NSW Rural Doctors Network, the Rural Medical Training Forum is inviting key stakeholders - including JMO managers, DMS/DCSs, representatives from Universities, Colleges, Divisions of General Practice, Regional Training Providers, Federal and State Departments of Health and others involved in medical training and education - to participate in a Forum on the PGPPP in NSW.

The Forum will discuss ways to increase PGPPP placements across the state, provide information on the latest developments around the PGPPP application and accreditation process and, most importantly, allow stakeholders to come together to share their experiences with others.

Held from 1pm Thursday 5 August at Vibe Hotel, Milsons Point, Sydney, the Forum will be followed by IMET’s Prevocational Forum on Friday 6 August.

Expressions of Interest and suggestions for agenda items can be forwarded by email to Rose Ellis, RDN’s Director of Education & Training at rellis@nswrdn.com.au or call 02 8337 8100.


20 January 2010

Overseas doctors essential in the bush

Rural Health Workforce Australia CEO, Dr Kim Webber, says overseas-trained medical graduates are an essential way of addressing the doctor shortage in rural and remote Australia.
She was responding to calls by the AMA for the Federal Government to abandon its policy that international medical graduates work in rural areas for up to 10 years.

“The 10-year moratorium is vital for staffing remote and rural practices. Our workforce in the country would be decimated if you got rid of it and the AMA needs to be careful that it doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater on this issue,” she says.

“If that policy was unilaterally dropped, I don’t know how places like the Kimberley and Brewarrina would ever be staffed. These communities understand this and greatly appreciate the work these doctors do there.”

Dr Webber says the reality is there is a shortage of doctors in rural and remote areas and part of the solution is the employment of international medical graduates.

“The fact is that rural Australia is reliant on overseas-trained doctors, at least until sufficient numbers of new medical graduates are appropriately trained in Australia,” she says.

“The recent expansion of medical schools and undergraduate places in Australia is intended to make Australia more self-reliant but it will be at least several years until these graduates move into the workforce. New rural relocation incentives for doctors, beginning on 1 July, should also make a difference.”

Rural Health Workforce Australia aims to boost the number of doctors serving rural and remote Australia, including Indigenous communities. It is the peak body for the Rural Workforce Agencies which recruit and support rural and remote GPs in each state and the Northern Territory.

Recruiting the right doctors to address each community’s needs is a critical issue and a complex process,” Dr Webber says. “We need to ensure all doctors applying for positions in Australia are suitably qualified and have an appropriate employment history.

“The next step is to provide support for the doctor and his or her family in their new community.Our Rural Workforce Agencies are committed to making this happen in order to keep these GPs in rural areas.”




23 October 2009

New GP super clinic for Gunnedah

The Australian Government has announced funding to construct a new GP Super Clinic in Gunnedah. $4.3 million has been allocated to build the clinic on the grounds of the Gunnedah District Hospital, providing a ‘one stop shop’ for the health requirements of the local community.

The clinic will have a focus on chronic disease self-management and a strong emphasis on training and education. Training places for medical, allied health, pharmacy and nursing students from the Universities of NSW and New England will be offered from the clinic. The specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be catered for, with the “Healthy for Life” Program relocating to the GP Super Clinic.

The clinic will be run by a consortium led by the Barwon Division of General Practice, and involve the Hunter New England Area Health Service and Universities of NSW and New England.

The $4.3 million will be added to a $500,000 pledged by BHP Billiton, $500,000 development funds from National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Fund, and fundraising efforts from the Gunnedah community.

This is a fantastic result and one that the RDN has helped progress over several years with the aforementioned organisations and Gunnedah community.


23 October 2009

Walgett doctors surgery wins National and NSW award

The RDN is very excited that this year’s winner of the prestigious National and NSW award for General Practice of the Year is the Walgett Doctors Surgery, NSW.

The General Practice of the Year Award recognises the outstanding work of general practices; the commitment of the practice to ongoing quality improvements; the standard of facilities offered to patients and staff; and the services offered to the local community.

Dr Elizabeth Marles, Chair of the RACGP NSW & ACT Faculty congratulated the doctors and staff of the Walgett Doctors Surgery. “Walgett Doctors Surgery is lead by Dr Vladislav Matic. Initially, as the only GP in the town and the town’s visiting medical officer at the local hospital, Dr Matic provided a 24/7 service for many years. In 2001 the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) set up Rural and Remote Medical Services (RaRMS), a not-for-profit organisation which provides administrative support and relief services to remote communities, including Walgett,” Dr Marles said.

The Walgett practice has integrating funding sources from Regional Health Services through the Outback Division, More Allied Health Services and community health services through Greater Western Area Health. Through this integration and with the support of RaRMS, the Walgett Doctors Surgery now boasts two practice nurses, an aboriginal health worker and support from regular ‘locums’, Drs Paul Collett, Sami Qureshi and Jane Marr, giving Walgett sustainable general practice care.

Walgett Doctors Surgery has increased the range of services provided to its patients. Immunisation, antenatal, women’s health and skin cancer services are delivered via scheduled clinics - attendance at which is promoted and encouraged by providing a patient transport service. Through skilled general practice care, Aboriginal health workers and extensive use of allied health services, there has been a 90% decrease in non-admitted outpatient attendances at the Walgett District Hospital.

An innovative web based chronic disease management record has been developed with the assistance of the Rural Doctors Network allowing other health professionals access to selected parts of the GP record, and allowing other health professionals to contribute to the record.

“These remarkable achievements and innovations have taken place in an under-resourced, isolated community with limited access to medical services and a high incidence of chronic conditions and complex health needs. As our profession moves toward multidisciplinary, team based care, the significant advances made by the Walgett Doctors Surgery demonstrates what can be achieved through partnerships, by building strong links with the local community, embracing innovation and a commitment to quality,” Dr Chris Mitchell, RACGP President said.


21 August 2009

National Hospitals & Health Reform Commission Report

The Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery, Warren Snowdon, chaired a consultation on the Recommendations of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission Report at Wagga Wagga on Friday 18 September.

This consultation was specifically focused upon rural and remote issues with General Manager Mark Lynch attending for the NSW Rural Doctors Network.

The Minister commenced by placing the reform proposals within the context of projected increases in population and the proportion of the elderly, estimates of huge increases in costs of chronic disease groups (e.g. 520% for Type 2 diabetes), continuing workforce shortages (e.g. of 556 GPs in 2016 and 939 by 2016), and health being expected to consume a much larger proportion of GDP. He painted a picture of a health system at a tipping point, needing reform decisions now, while recognising those decisions will take some years to implement, and that implementation costs would be several billion per annum. It was hoped that the Henry Tax Review due in December would identify funding sources. The Minister indicated a very strong commitment to improving health service access and equity for rural and remote communities.

Minister Snowdon particularly referred to the recommended assumption of Federal Government responsibility for primary health care, creation of comprehensive Primary Health Care Centres, a patient-centric approach, telemedicine opportunities and reform of the Patient Assistance Travel Scheme. A lengthy Q&A session with some 50 attendees ranged across topics such as how the role of small community hospitals might fit with the reforms, e-health across State borders, developing the Aboriginal workforce, the nature and size of the proposed Primary Health Organisations, and the value of further expansion of outreach services and absolute importance of rural and remote workforce.

Information on the consultations, and the opportunity to make individual contributions, is available at a dedicated Department of Health & Ageing website. Go to: www.yourhealth.gov.au/internet/yourhealth/publishing.nsf/Content/event20090918


7 August 2009

Rural and remote medical workforce changes in the Australia Government 2009-10 Budget

There are some major changes and additions to Australian Government incentives for rural GPs. Much detail is still to come and any plans need to be confirmed with the NSW Rural Doctors Network or a Division, but a brief outline follows.

1. Australian Standard Geographical Classification will be used as the sole geographical index, replacing RRMA and GPARIA. Details are outlined on the Doctor Connect website at www.doctorconnect.gov.au/internet/otd/Publishing.nsf/Content/RA-intro

2. Rural Retention Program and GP Registrars Rural Retention Program consolidated into GP Rural Incentives Program. Registrars will receive the same funding amount as GPs.

This is based on a sliding scale from Inner Regional to Very Remote and involves a graded increase in payments across five years to a maximum yearly payment each year after five years. It is likely to commence in July 2010.

3. Relocation Grants for all areas, again scaled according to where from and where to on ASGC classification. Probably will be centrally administered by Medicare and paid retrospectively at the end of first and second years in new location. It is likely to commence in July 2010.

4. Bonded medical places, bonded medical scholarships and HECS reimbursements all now have return of service requirements scaled according to ASGC.

5. OTD reduction in Ten-Year Moratorium now graded according to ASGC. It is uncertain whether places will still need DOWS. Uncertain what happens to existing Five-Year Program

6. Several new or existing Locum programs:

- SOLS and GPALS (obstetric and anaesthetic specialist and GP locum programs) to continue and be expanded.A new program based on the NSW Rural Doctors Network Balmain Casualty model to attract urban GPs to do rural locums to be instituted nationally.

- A new National Rural Locum Project is likely to start during 2009/2010. For 2009/10 the projected number is 47 nationally, with more in later years.

7. MSOAP to be expanded to include multidisciplinary teams in indigenous communities, and later to also include a maternity component.

8. PGPPP to be expanded. NSW will pick up some additional places. To be administered by GPET rather than RACGP / ACRRM.

There are other changes around Divisions, consolidation of primary care and allied health programs, training, overseas recruitment of allied health practitioners and nursing programs.

For more information on the Budget go to www.health.gov.au/budget2009