NSW Farmers Association, Media Release, 13 February 2023
The state’s peak farming body is calling for the federal government to commit to an overhaul of how rural health is handled.
NSW Farmers health spokesperson Sarah Thompson said plans to get doctors into the bush by wiping HELP debts were ‘promising’, but would not be a silver bullet.
“One of the big issues facing rural and remote communities is access to health professionals, and we need to move to a place-based solution,” Mrs Thompson said.
“This is not just about doctors and nurses, this is about getting unity between state and federal governments, universities and health providers to ensure we have the skills and capacity to meet patient needs.
“We recognise the incredible contribution of those already working to provide health services in rural and remote areas, we simply do not have enough of them!”
Among the solutions put forward by NSW Farmers was the Murrumbidgee model of training doctors to work in rural communities, and developing a scholarship program to support existing rural and remote nurses and allied health professionals to gain higher level qualifications to improve local service delivery.
“Rather than just trying to attract people to rural areas, as the federal government’s HELP plan does, we must encourage more locals to train as health professionals, as they are shown to be more likely to live and work in their home communities,” Mrs Thompson said.
“Giving doctors with HELP debts this incentive may help them consider a rural or remote area, but if there is no local training option, or no house for them to live in, or no connection to the community, they may not even consider it.
“It’s not just about doctors and nurses either – we must also have complementary and allied health services as well as investment in regional liveability.
“Ultimately, farming and rural communities growing our food and fibre need better access to quality healthcare.”