COUNTRY PRACTICE: The University of Sydney's School of Rural Health in Lismore will see more graduate doctors experience rural living.
COUNTRY PRACTICE: The University of Sydney's School of Rural Health in Lismore will see more graduate doctors experience rural living. Trevor Mein

New doctors to experience a country practice

MEDICAL students will get a taste of country living which will result in a trifecta boost of residents experiencing quality healthcare, up to $7 million into local economies and the number of graduates who want to work as rural doctors.

The University of Sydney's Dean of Medicine, Professor Arthur Conigrave said its School of Rural Health locations including Lismore, have long history of training students in country New South Wales, making it a win-win situation for everyone involved.

"Rural training experience increases the likelihood that doctors will commit to working in rural locations long term,” Professor Conigrave said.

"This is why we have had a longstanding commitment to the training of rural doctors for more than 20 years (and) by the end of 2017, almost 1000 of our medical students will have undertaken extended training placements in these four centres.”

Professor Conigrave said at graduation, many students indicated they would prefer to work in rural areas.

"The Government's new funding for the rural doctor training 'pipeline' will help these students to achieve their ambitions and their talents for rural health and medicine,” he said.

However, Professor Conigrave said that there were not enough medical training positions to convert students' intentions into medical careers in rural areas.

"We're doing very well in priming the pipeline for the training of rural doctors - many more new medical graduates are now trying to get jobs in rural hospitals as interns,” he said.

"In fact, there are now significantly more applicants for these critical rural junior hospital training jobs than there are jobs available.”

Underlining the University's contribution to rural economies, Professor Conigrave said: "We have a track record of excellence in rural medical education and we are making significant contributions to local economies.”

"At Dubbo and Orange, for example, the University of Sydney School of Rural Health contributes close to $7 million each year in direct local expenditures.

"This provides jobs for more than 50 people in central western NSW, all of whom live locally - they make up almost 30 full-time equivalents. Many of them are highly skilled, and might otherwise have been obliged to look elsewhere for work,” Professor Conigrave said.

"Then, of course, there are also indirect economic benefits (as) the 64 students that take extended rural placements each year bring business to local shops, sporting facilities and food outlets, and contribute to community life and projects of all sorts.”

He said the School of Rural Health also requires many local services such as motor vehicles, IT, transport services, plumbing, the maintenance of grounds and even the paint on the walls, which they purchase from local suppliers.

"But most importantly, the University of Sydney School of Rural Health in Dubbo and Orange and Departments of Rural in Broken Hill and Lismore are helping to lift access to quality healthcare among Australians in rural and remote areas,” he said.

In April, the University of Sydney won $3 million in federal funds to establish Rural Training Hubs in Broken Hill, Dubbo and Lismore to boost rural-based training and career pathways for trainee doctors.

"The funding will enable junior doctors with ambitions in rural medicine to undertake specialist training in rural rather than metropolitan centres, developing into fully-fledged experts who can provide rural communities with specialist healthcare in all major fields of medicine, including general practice and rural and remote medicine and surgery,” Professor Conigrave said.



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