NSW councils are pressing candidates at next year's State election to support initiatives worth $5 million annually to boost doctor and medical health facilities in rural and remote communities.
The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW recently launched their Rural General Practitioners Policy Platform, the first of several priority policy papers in the lead up to the elections in March 2007.
Among the remedies sought are clinical professional development for visiting medical officers ($3.2m); and provision of a manual for councils to support GP families upon location in new surroundings ($180,000).
Councils already spend more than $1.5 million per annum on health support services, which contribute to the $430 million in cost shifting each year estimated by the Allan Report.
The President of the Local Government Association, Cr Genia McCaffery, said isolated communities faced significant rural health challenges, and required more general practitioners, including a comprehensive locum service.
"There is an overall shortage and uneven distribution of doctors, compounded by an increasing demand for their services, and a decrease in clinical work hours.
"By 2012, the NSW Rural Doctors Network estimates the doctor shortage will rise from 275 to 410," Cr McCaffery said.
The President of the Shires Association, Cr Col Sullivan OAM, said councils had expressed concerns for more than a decade about the adequacy of general medical practices, ageing of the GP workforce, and deficiencies in public hospitals and other health services, including dental access.
"We have 30 councils providing 45 medical centres for 59 doctors at an annual cost of $465,000. Likewise, 26 councils provide 48 houses for 53 doctors, costing $540,000 each year.
"In the first instance, we want the State Government to introduce additional funding of $5 million a year. They should collaborate with the Federal Government to deliver joint initiatives so this ongoing shortage can be plugged," Cr Sullivan said.
For the 2007 State Election Rural General Practitioners Policy Platform visit http://www.lgsa.org.au/www/html/1315-election-policy-platform.asp
See attachment which looks in detail over a wide number of specified council assistance programs to rural and regional NSW here: http://www.lgsa.org.au/www/html/265-rural-health.asp
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