The AMA says there should be easier pathways for rural doctors to work in their local hospitals.
The association said it has examined rural workforce shortages and found bureaucratic processes by local hospitals or health services prevent some rural GPs and rural generalists from having any connection with or involvement in their local hospitals.
It has made a number of recommendations in a new position statement that are designed to address shortages in rural areas.
They include support for clinical up-skilling or re-skilling of local GPs by local hospitals or health services, as well as consistent and non-restrictive credentialling.
The AMA said its Council of Rural Doctors (CRD) has seen concerning situations where rural GPs are denied opportunities to work in their local hospital, while temporary locums are hired.
AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said a properly functioning arrangement would have rural GPs remunerated through the Medicare Benefits Schedule for services provided in their private practice and by states for services provided in local hospitals.
“At a time when our hospitals are under immense pressure, it’s extraordinary that regional hospitals and health services are appointing locums – often at higher costs – when there are highly-skilled GPs prevented by administrative barriers from bringing their experience in the community to their own local hospitals.
“We need clear and fair arrangements in place so GPs and health services can work together to deliver better health outcomes for our regional and rural communities.
“The best model for our communities is where the talent and expertise in local rural general practices is harnessed by local hospitals and remunerated through the hospital system, while the MBS covers GPs’ work in their practices.
“This increases job satisfaction for the GPs, contributes positively to retention of the rural workforce, and means hospitals won’t have to rely on a costly, impermanent workforce.
“GPs are the backbone of rural health, providing cradle-to-grave medicine for whole families through their practices, as well as emergency care for their communities through arrangements with their local hospitals,” said Dr Khorshid.
According to CRD shair Dr Marco Giuseppin, “We’re really attacking the problems GPs are finding and which can ultimately mean the difference between them staying in the community or deciding to leave. We want to build stronger, fulfilling, lasting careers for our rural doctors and that’s what’s behind the AMA’s new position statement.
“Integrating our current and future rural GPs and rural generalists into a single health care environment is achievable and will deliver better outcomes for everyone; especially patients, but also hospitals themselves and we’re hoping the position statement helps regional health services understand and move to realise the benefits of integrating local GPs into their services.
“Supporting rural GPs and rural generalists to work collaboratively between hospitals and private general practices gives these doctors more reasons to stay rural and serve their communities.
“Implementing the Commonwealth Government’s National Rural Generalist Pathway can facilitate the industrial and cultural change necessary to achieve this.”