The Senate Community Affairs Committee has heard this week that the Labor Government’s healthcare ranking system was failing regional Victorians.
In Albury for a parliamentary inquiry into rural health services, industry leaders told the committee including The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie, the Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Areas (ASGC-RA) system was flawed.
“Why should Bendigo, with a population of approximately 105,000 people and Dingee, with approximately 300 people, receive the same amount of funding and incentives?” Senator McKenzie said.
“A number of outlying towns around major regional centres have been lumped together, further disadvantaging regional Victorians.
“The Inner Regional (RA2) and Outer Regional (RA3) re-zoning has proven especially problematic, forcing isolated rural towns to compete with large regional centres.”
Senator McKenzie also heard only one in every five medical graduates were working in regional areas, while increased GP training places in rural and regional Australia hadn’t kept up with the demand for medical services.
“Experts pointed out 40 per cent of rural and remote doctors are trained overseas, adding it was important to invest in the future and improve training to keep GPs in rural practice.
“There also needs to be improved access to mentoring and support networks, so doctors know they can take holidays or pursue professional development.”
Submissions to the inquiry revealed about 90 rural maternity and theatre units have closed in Victoria over the past 25 years, while Victoria’s rural medical workforce is barely being replenished.
“Practices have not been able to escape the fact, in the past 20 years the attrition rate of rural doctors has exceeded replacement,” Senator McKenzie said.
“There are also fewer doctors available to become GPs, as the appeal of specialisation increases.”
The hearing will contribute to the development of federal rural health service initiatives in Australia, with a report to be handed down on June 27.