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More money won’t fix rural healthcare crisis

CEO of Rural and Remote Medical Services, Mark Burdack. Photo courtesy of RaRMS

The NSW government’s offer of a $10,000 bonus to healthcare workers who choose to relocate to the bush does not address the critical issues deterring medical professionals from working in country towns.

CEO of Rural and Remote Medical Services (RaRMS), Mark Burdack, said the financial incentive was made without consultation with local communities and would have little or no impact on the crisis facing health services in Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Lightning Ridge.

Statistics on the state of health care in remote communities paint a damning picture, with the loss of three-quarters of the rural GP workforce in the past 10 years and just 200 doctors for more than 600,000 residents in the region.

A state government inquiry into rural and remote health services heard that in four years the western region will likely have no locally based doctors at all. More than 40 rural generalist practises are currently at risk of closure.

Mr Burdack said the cash incentive wouldn’t attract permanent doctors when locum doctors could earn up to two and a half thousand dollars a day.

“That equates to about four days’ work for a locum so the incentives aren’t going to achieve the outcomes and there will be no significant improvement in health care services based on these incentives,” he said.

“We have been focusing on money incentives for the past 20 years and for 20 years it hasn’t worked.

“We need to focus on all the factors the rural health inquiry heard - that GPs aren’t always well supported in hospitals, that there is a culture of fear if people speak up, or a negative consequence, so you can’t put incentives in place without addressing the fundamentals of the work environment.

“We should be asking - ‘Do we have the housing to create a liveable environment for doctors and nurses, and are there early childhood services or school options?

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