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RANZCO supports new National Rural Health Commissioner

25/10/2017By Matthew Woodley
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The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has appointed Professor Paul Worley to the newly created position of National Rural Health Commissioner, in an effort to help rectify shortage of regionally based doctors.

Worley will also be tasked with improving rural health policies in general, with a focus on training and pay for doctors working regionally.

The issue of rural doctor shortages is not unique to GPs. According to the 2016 Eye health workforce in Australia report, 84% of ophthalmologists reported to be working in major cities, compared with just 70% of the general population. Meanwhile, a 2014 Lions Eye Institute report into telehealth in remote Western Australia revealed a shortage of specialist eye services in rural areas compared to the Australian average; up to 19 times less available.

Dr Michael Gannon, AMA president
Dr Michael Gannon, AMA president
“The long-awaited appointment of a National Rural Health Commissioner has the potential to boost the profile of rural health issues in government decision-making and health policy development.”
Michael Gannon, AMA president

In congratulating Worley on his new appointment AMA president Dr Michael Gannon acknowledged the problems facing access to medicine in rural and remote Australia.

“Professor Worley has a big job ahead of him, and he will have the full support of the AMA and other groups with a commitment to improving access to quality health services in rural, regional, and remote Australia,” Gannon said.

“The long-awaited appointment of a National Rural Health Commissioner has the potential to boost the profile of rural health issues in government decision-making and health policy development. [It] will also lead the establishment of a Rural Generalist Pathway, which could boost the much-needed recruitment and retention of skilled practitioners in rural areas.”

RANZCO president Associate Professor Mark Daniell also welcomed Worley’s appointment, and said it was a positive step forward with regard to strengthening health outcomes in regional Australia.

“RANZCO supports the Federal Government’s initiative in appointing Professor Worley, with his extensive experience in rural healthcare, as Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner and looks forward to working collaboratively with him to further improve access to quality eye healthcare services for patients in rural and remote communities,” he said.

Worley is currently Dean of Medicine at Flinders University, and is a past president of the Rural Doctors Association of SA. He was also national vice president of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM).

Carl Zeiss
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