In March 2015, Rural Health West published the Finding My Place report which summarised feedback from doctors about the issues impacting on their decisions to live and work in rural and remote Western Australia.
The information gathered covered a wide variety of issues including access to, and appropriateness of, professional development; family support; training and support for junior doctors; peer support; and networking.
The Rural Health Agency Reference Group
At the time Finding My Place was published, the agencies involved in guiding the project committed to working together to ensure that the issues impacting on the recruitment and retention of rural doctors were addressed.
A Finding My Place Rural Health Agency Reference Group (RHARG) was formed and the group meets regularly to discuss the initiatives each agency is developing in response to the report.
Agencies involved in the RHARG are:
- Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia
- Australian Government Department of Health
- Australian Medical Association (WA)
- Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Australia
- Rural Health West
- WA Country Health Service
- WA General Practice Education and Training Limited
- WA Local Government Association
- WA Primary Health Alliance
The impetus for Finding My Place
People living in many parts of rural Western Australia have poorer access to health services than those in the Perth metropolitan area, which contributes to the difference in health status. The difference in health status between metropolitan and rural Western Australians is amplified in our Indigenous population, which is heavily weighted to rural parts of our State.
Like all Australian states and territories, Western Australia has specific challenges assuring the availability and quality of medical services in its rural areas. The most critical factor determining success in meeting these challenges is the supply and distribution of qualified and experienced medical practitioners willing to live and work in rural locations. The long-term shortage of medical practitioners in rural Western Australia is well documented and an ongoing area of focus for government and non-government health agencies seeking to improve access to health care in rural areas.
While there is solid evidence that workforce strategies have been successful in improving the supply of doctors eligible and willing to work in rural Western Australia as well as stemming the turnover of doctors in these areas, further work is needed if we are to capitalise on this effort and achieve a genuine net increase in the number and distribution of medical practitioners and a resultant improvement in access to primary health care services for rural people. The Finding My Place project aims to make an important contribution to the way the rural health system in Western Australia approaches the challenge of improving doctor attraction and retention.