The Coalition has promised $146 million to address the shortage of doctors and other medical professionals in rural and regional communities, as the battle to lock in the votes of Australians continues in the lead up to the May 21 election.
Measures include an increase in funding of $15 million to the John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Program, which is intended to ensure more than 1,000 junior doctors are placed in rural and regional general practices.
This program also enables them to be ready to undertake the Australian General Practice Training Program.
Other initiatives that will receive greater funding to increase medical services in the rural and regional areas if the Coalition is elected include $35 million for the Innovative Models of Collaborative Care program, a $9 million boost for additional training posts, and $87 million to provide additional workforce incentives.
Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce said these measures were designed to encourage doctors to move from the cities into rural and regional areas.
“These investments mark one step of many in this substantial task and follow on from things we have already delivered, such as allied health for Shepparton, the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, telehealth in Queensland, oncology in Dubbo and more,” Joyce said.
“Geography shouldn’t be a barrier to health care and our plan to deliver more doctors and health professionals into regional and rural communities will boost our regional health workforce and ensure regional Australians can receive care close to home, just as people do in capital cities.”
Regional health minister David Gillespie said it was well known that training experiences in the rural sector have encouraged people to stay in rural areas.
“As a former regional doctor, I am focused on increasing access to services, reducing costs for patients and training a local medical workforce that is part of our regional and rural communities,” Gillespie said.
“These measures – coupled with our investment through the Stronger Rural Health Strategy – will help rebuild the country hospital doctor workforce, incentivise more multidisciplinary teams and protect and preserve the long-term viability of rural general practice.”
The launch of the rural and regional policy by the Coalition follows a weekend during which both political parties promised a reduction on the cost of prescriptions.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said last Saturday the federal government would guarantee a $10 reduction on prescriptions on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme while the federal opposition said it promises a $12.50 reduction in the cost of prescriptions.
The Coalition promise would result in the cost of a prescription going down to $32.50 but the Labor pledge brings it down to $30.