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The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) has strongly welcomed the announced intention by the Government to appoint a National Rural Health Commissioner should they win Government at the upcoming Federal election.

ACRRM President, Professor Lucie Walters, said the announcement was long-awaited recognition that more needed to be done to improve health outcomes and address the current workforce maldistribution which resulted in a shortage of appropriately skilled doctors in rural and remote areas.

“This announcement ticks a number of items on the College election ‘wish list’,” she said.

“While naturally we will be interested in more detailed information about the role of the proposed Commissioner, it is very pleasing to see that the need for a strong national advocate for rural health care has been recognised.

“We are also delighted to see that the first priority of the Rural Health Commissioner would be to oversee the development of a National Rural Generalist Pathway.

“The College has been calling for the establishment of a National Rural Generalist Program for many years now.  It is crucial to ensuring access to quality health care for people in rural and remote communities into the future.

“Rural Generalist programs are already well developed and providing excellent results in some states, but all Australians deserve to benefit from this program.”

The model provides a structured training pathway for medical students and junior doctors and appropriate recognition for those highly skilled doctors who are providing a wide range of services.

“There is clear evidence that it can attract motivated and enthusiastic medical students to rural practice and keep them there,” Professor Walters said.

“A National Rural Generalist Pathway should be supported by adequate funding for rural hospitals and recognition of the important role that rural practices play in meeting a range of health care needs in their communities.

“However this announcement is a significant step towards providing the ‘right doctors with the right skills’ for rural communities and delivering the health care services which are needed in rural Australia,” she said.

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