Australians who live in cities have better health outcomes than Australians who live in rural and remote areas. Rural communities have fewer doctors and are finding it increasingly difficult to attract new ones. Rural patients access Medicare at far lower rates than metropolitan patients and wait longer to see their GP. Rural doctors are up against it, and it feels like no one is paying attention.
In conducting the 2019 AMA Rural Health Issues Survey, we set out to hear what our rural doctors were saying. We wanted to identify the urgent priorities to begin to improve the health outcomes of our communities. Rural doctors – we asked you to tell us, and you did.
One of the major challenges when conducting a survey of Australia’s rural doctors is that we all work in vastly different areas. Our communities have their own unique issues, we may have stateof-the art equipment in our hospitals (but lack staff to use it) or we may be the only doctor for hundreds of kilometres around. One doctor may be supporting their community through the complex challenges of a drought while another is battling the waterborne diseases unique to the Wet Season. Regardless of the challenges, rural doctors do their best.
Our challenge now is to produce policy that will support all of our rural (and regional and remote) doctors and improve the health outcomes of their communities. We have started by listening to these doctors. We have listened, and we will base our policies on what we have been told.