A new collaborative health care model built on a community-based response was launched for Parkes, Forbes and surrounding communities last week.
Parkes and Forbes will join four other regions in the trial to find innovative solutions to local healthcare problems with an investment of $5 million from the Australian Government to support what the communities come up with. The four other regions are the 4Ts (Tullamore, Trangie, Tottenham and Trundle), Canola Fields (Canowindra), Snowy Valley and Wentworth.
Regional experts, including the NSW Rural Doctors Network, the Western NSW Local Health District and the Western NSW Primary Health Network are working closely with local councils, community and health professionals to design an innovative solution for the area.
The difference with this approach to traditional health workforce solutions that focus on individual towns, is the focus will be on sub-regions to address healthcare access issues. “By servicing multiple towns, there is an opportunity to achieve economies of scale, create sustainable practices and provide better access to primary health services for rural and remote Australians,” said Deputy Prime Minister and member for Riverina Michael McCormack at the launch.
“The aim is to demonstrate how new and flexible approaches can address workforce shortages in the bush and find sustainable ways of delivering services across a number of smaller, connected rural communities,” said Federal Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton. “The challenge of delivering health services in small communities is well known, and it is clear the existing one-size-fits-all approach isn’t working for every rural community.”
Professor Ruth Stewart, National Rural Health Commissioner, compared the new approach to the idea that the only knife you should carry in your pocket is a Swiss army knife.
“The plan is to get the best from health care professionals on board and to get them to work closely together rather than in competition,” she said.
The aim of the new approach is to attract medical students to rural and remote areas where they can gain good experience that would inspire them to return and to find a career pathways into rural health practise.
“Students should see it as an opportunity and not some form of punishment to work in rural areas,” said Mark.
Deputy Mayor of the Parkes Shire Barbara Newton told The Parkes Phoenix she hoped the new approach would result in sustainable services. “I hope it’s broad enough to include allied health workers and that it would find ways to really encourage health professionals to come to our region.”
The 4Ts model has been 18 months in the works and the next step for that area is to start recruiting staff.
The CEO of the Rural Doctors Network, Richard Colbran said the days of a doctor settling into a town for 40 years were gone. The aim with the new model would be to get doctors to stay for at least five years that would allow patients to build a relationship with their GP.