In 2014, the Australian Government Department of Health committed to implementing a project called National Rural Generalist Pathway, and the appointed person to develop it is the National Rural Health Commissioner.
Generally, this Pathway aims to recognise Rural Generalism as a specialised clinical profession and support rural generalist doctors.
Providing Healthcare to Rural and Remote Australians
Appointed in 2017, the former and first National Rural Health Commissioner Emeritus Professor Paul Worley stated that the Pathway is a training program to produce more skilled rural generalists who can provide comprehensive and high-quality medical care to patients in remote and rural areas.
Moreover, according to the current National Rural Health Commissioner, Associate Professor Ruth Stewart, being a rural generalist is the best job in the world.
The rural generalists are general practitioners who help people from regional, rural, and remote areas to meet their health needs.
Since the health resources from these areas are limited, rural generalists give hope to these people to access better and wider medical services.
The role of rural generalists is wide and through the help of the Pathway, they can enhance their skills, competence, and confidence to provide health services from adjusting medications to helping a patient deliver a baby or reviving a coma patient.
In December 2018, the Commissioner, together with the National Rural Generalist Taskforce, advised the Government about the development of the project. Eventually, the 2019-20 Budget committed $62.2 million to launch the Pathway. This budget includes the training and the application for professional recognition of Rural Generalism.
Learn more about the National Rural Generalist Taskforce Advice here.
ACRRM, RACGP, and the Generalist Pathway
The Government has included in the budget the funding of the Australian general practice colleges to apply to the Medical Board of Australia. This application is to include Rural Generalist Medicine as a distinct field of general practice.
In 2019, the Australian College of Rural & Remote Medicine started the formal application to have Rural Generalist Medicine recognised as a specialised field.
In the same year, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners announced that the development of the Rural Generalist Fellowship (FRACGP-RG) was underway, and in January 2022, the key developments of this training were incorporated in the Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice (FARGP) curriculum.
These two colleges are vital in producing trained rural doctors to meet the needs of their communities and uphold the health, economic, and social welfare of rural and remote communities in the country.
The Importance of the Generalist Pathway
The Commissioner hopes that through the Pathway, the scope of practice and the skills of qualified general practitioners will be recognised by different governments and health departments, hospitals, and clinical practices.
Aside from supporting and producing more rural generalists who can deliver health services to rural Australians, this program aims to reduce hospital admissions, the use of locum services, and limit the need for patient travel.
In addition to training the GPs to provide both general practice and emergency care cost-effectively, this program will also tackle the shortage of doctors in the bush.
Rural GPs Denied Work Opportunities
According to the AMA Council of Rural Doctors, rural GPs are denied access to work opportunities with local hospitals while locums are hired, and some of the recommendations to address this issue includes the following:
Increase the support for GPs’ clinical up-skilling or re-skilling by local hospitals.
Rural hospitals and health services must have a local GP or rural generalist involved in decision-making processes.
With the help of the Pathway, there is hope for these shortages and denied work opportunities to halt.
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