The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) has called on government to boost rural and remote general practice care so that all patients can access the care they need when they need it.
It comes on day two of the WONCA World Conference Sydney 2023, from 26 to 29 October 2023, one of the largest global conferences for GPs. WONCA 2023 is being hosted by the RACGP, bringing the conference to Australia for the first time in over 20 years.
WONCA will include a series of informative presentations on rural and remote primary care including:
- RACGP Rural Council Member Dr John Buckley on GPs and family doctors as the solution to rural health systems in crisis
- Rural WONCA Chair Professor Alan Bruce Chater on effective pathways to rural practice, which includes bringing a rural lens to health policy formulation
- Director of Integrated Projects and Partnerships at Murray Primary Health Network Dr Catherine Lees on advocating for change to strengthen rural health services.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said the health of rural and remote communities must be a priority.
“All patients, regardless of where they live, deserve access to high-quality general practice care,” she said.
“The job ahead of us is to address inequities that lead to people living outside of major cities experiencing inferior healthcare outcomes. The key to boosting the health and wellbeing of patients across rural and remote communities is strong general practice care.”
RACGP Rural Chair Associate Professor Michael Clements agreed.
“A key focus of the WONCA conference will be boosting rural and remote general practice care,” he said.
“Governments everywhere must be keenly focussed on how to address health disparities and ensure all patients can access the care they need. Just a few months ago, a report revealed that governments spend $6.5 billion a year less on regional and remote patients in Australia despite higher burdens of disease, which equates to each person in rural Australia missing out on nearly $850 a year of healthcare access. So, clearly, we have a long way to go, and we haven’t got any time to lose.”
Professor Alan Bruce Chater said that policy makers should always view health policy through a rural lens.
“General practice care in rural and remote communities must be a priority,” he said.
“At the WONCA roundtable today, we will be sharing our experiences and discussing effective and practical approaches to rural health policy, which includes boosting the rural health workforce so that no patients are left behind. Whenever policy makers are devising health policy, they need to have rural and remote communities front of mind. That way we can ‘rural proof’ our policy settings and ensure that general practice care thrives outside of our major cities.”
Dr John Buckley said that GPs are the solution to rural health system challenges.
“Strong general practice care is the key to fixing our rural and remote health systems,” he said.
“We are the engine room of health systems, so GPs and family doctors are in the best position to lead recovery in health systems outside of major cities. Unfortunately, access to healthcare can prove challenging for many rural and remote communities and patients have poorer health outcomes. The solution is boosting general practice care so that the strengths of GPs and family doctors can be better utilised. This will make for healthier and happier communities everywhere.”
Hosted by the RACGP, the WONCA conference theme is “Recovery, reconnection, and revival. A celebration of primary care.” WONCA includes more than 800 presentations and workshops from over 700 local and international presenters from around the world. It will feature over 50 streams, covering a range of issues being faced by GPs including rural health, mental health, women’s health, climate change, and more.
Spokespeople are available for interview.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.