Canadian solution to rural GP shortage to be trialled in NSW

Three north-western NSW councils will take part in a research project to address their long-standing health workforce shortages.

The Glen Innes Severn Council and the Gwydir and Narrabri Shire councils will work with a research team to establish, fund, and manage a health workforce recruiter and connector (HWRC) position in each of the three LGAs.

The HWRC will provide tailored support to newly recruited health workers and their family members with settling in, making connections, and thriving- in-place (including employment support for partners).

Ensuring rural and remote communities have relatively straightforward access to medical care is an ongoing priority for ALGA.

Delegates at this year’s Regional Cooperation and Development Forum in Canberra heard again of the difficulties councils face in attracting and retaining medical staff, with the mayors of the District Council of Tumby Bay and the Forbes Shire Council recounting their experiences and discussing options for overcoming shortages.

ALGA will be making a submission to a recently announced federal parliamentary inquiry into the provision of GP and related primary health services to outer metropolitan, rural, and regional communities.

The HWRC model was originally developed in Marathon, a small Canadian town of about 3300 residents in Ontario province.

A consortium of local health, local government, and business stakeholders created the position to address a chronic shortage of GPs in the town. The consortium has continued to fund, govern and manage the position in the 10 years since then.

The two-year project to transplant the idea to Australia has been dubbed “Attract, Connect, Stay”, and is being funded by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) and run under the auspices of Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH), which represents rural and remote allied health professionals.

SARRAH chief executive Cath Moloney, said: “We are seeing more people moving from the city to rural communities because of the many benefits of a rural lifestyle.

“To support this movement, we also need to see comparable growth in the health services available in regional Australia.

“Community-led and innovative projects like Attract, Connect, Stay should ensure rural and remote communities have access to health professionals to the same extent as their city-based counterparts.”

Cath Cosgrave, who will head the research team said: “We have had a fantastic response from interested communities to establish the HWRC positions.

“The successful towns should be congratulated for their commitment to ensuring their residents have access to a range of health professionals needed to keep people healthy.”