Web_rural-healthThose of us who live in the bush know what it is like to enjoy a relaxed rural lifestyle within a close, supportive community. Locally available services are crucial to the survival of our rural towns — none more so than high quality healthcare services. Unfortunately, many rural communities still find it difficult to attract and keep local doctors, and are therefore unable to offer readily accessible healthcare services.

With the many young doctors now graduating from our medical schools, Australia has a prime opportunity to grow a new cohort of future doctors with the advanced skills and commitment needed for rural practice. The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has identified various strategies to attract the next generation of doctors into rural medicine. We are asking the parties contesting the Federal Election to commit funding for proven, cost-effective initiatives that will support both rural practice, and rural healthcare more generally, across a range of areas.

These initiatives include more rural training places (to enable more students and young doctors to train in rural settings), better supports to enable more rural practices to undertake teaching and expand their healthcare services, and a National Advanced Rural Training Program to deliver more rural doctors who can work in both general practice and hospital settings. To-date, we have not heard a great deal from the major parties about their rural health policies. We encourage all rural Australians to make some noise during this election, and bring rural healthcare to the attention of your local candidates, so this critical area gets the attention, consideration and priority it deserves. Find RDAA’s federal election platform at www.rdaa.com.au (go to Quick Links).

Dr Sheilagh Cronin, president, Rural Doctors Association of Australia.