New funding for medical training in rural Australia

The Australian Government has introduced a number of initiatives to create more healthcare jobs and improve medical training and facilities in regional and rural Australia.

The aim is to improve healthcare access for the third of the population (nearly 7 million people) that live in these areas. Training and infrastructure investment are the main focus of the new programmes.

A recent article published in BMC Family Practice emphasised the importance of improving access to primary healthcare for people living in rural and regional Australia. The article states that people living in these areas experience poorer health outcomes than those in metropolitan populations.

The Federal Government’s initiatives include $40 million over four years to accommodate more intern training capacity in regional and rural private hospitals. There will also be a further $238 million over that time frame for teaching in general practices, which will be provided through the Practice Incentive Payment.

Infrastructure grants up to the value of $52.5 million will also be made available for projects that aim to improve training and supervision of regional and rural medical services. Rural professionals in nursing or allied health will also be able to apply for 500 additional scholarships. The scholarships have a total value of $13.4 million.

Other Federal Government funding includes $6 million for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and $3.1 billion for Indigenous health programmes and activities. The government has also committed to delivering the Better Start to Life programme to indigenous communities in regional and rural Australia.

The number of full-time workload equivalent (FWE) general practitioners (GPs) in each state is the highest in New South Wales, according to an interactive graph on the Australian Government’s Rural and Regional Health Australia site. In New South Wales the number of FWE GPs in 2011-12 was 7,338. In the Northern Territory, which had the lowest number of FWE GPs, there were only 142.