Call for more incentives to keep medicos coming to the bush

JUST over 51% of medical specialists providing outreach services to rural communities continue to visit the same town, prompting medical experts to call for a review of incentives and models of practice.

Monash University researchers said rural outreach clinics reduced hospitalisations and achieved similar clinical outcomes to metropolitan-based clinics.

Using data from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life study, the researchers surveyed doctors to find out how many had serviced the same rural town for at least three years.

They found that of the 848 specialists providing rural outreach services, 51.9% continued to provide ongoing service to the same towns.

"The degree to which specialists continue to visit the same town over time is important to sustaining access and supporting follow-up care," the researchers write in today's MONDAY Medical Journal of Australia.

The researchers said the "stability of rural outreach services could be improved" by structuring outreach services to complement practitioners' commitments at their main practices.

"Team-based rotational arrangements require less time commitment by individuals, and including telehealth in the service platform can also reduce the number of visits needed," they wrote.

"Financial subsidies for the costs of travel and travel time might also help facilitate ongoing rural outreach by specialists working privately." - APN NEWSDESK

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