Attracting young doctors to regional areas

Five rural and remote Tasmanian communities, including the Huon Valley, have farewelled their first group of intern doctors, as they leave to embark on the next stage of their intern journeys.

Meanwhile, five new medical graduates have commenced their 13 week placements, in what has proven to be a successful programme for the Tasmanian community and doctors alike.

Aiming to encourage more young doctors to choose a career in rural general practice, the Federal Government’s Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund is the first of several programmes that will train, mentor and support doctors on each step of their rural medical career.

Training doctors can elect, in subsequent years, to go on and acquire advanced rural skills, culminating in recognition from the Royal Australian College of General Practice (of which the Huon Valley Health Centre’s Dr Bastian Seidel is the current President) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.

Ochre Health has chosen to coordinate 20 intern placements per year across five rural and remote Tasmanian practices over a three year period.

Commencing in January 2018, the programme has enjoyed immediate success.

Ochre Health co-founder Dr Hamish Meldrum welcomes the second intake of junior medical officers, set to begin their rural and remote terms in April.

He is confident that the five new intern placements will benefit both the communities and the young doctors that are about to start their placements.

The second cohort of interns will be located in general practices in Huonville, Flinders Island, King Island, St Helens and Queenstown.

Having completed his rural and remote intern placement at the Huon Valley Health Centre, Dr James Robinson is excited for the next intake of interns, saying the programme has giving him the exposure and diversity he has been looking forward to as a junior medical officer.

“I have really enjoyed working in the Huon Valley, it was great to be able to work with the amazing team at the Huon Valley Health Centre and meet so many nice people from the community,” said James.

“It was an excellent opportunity to gain hands on experience in rural general practice and make a contribution to people’s health in the Huon Valley area.”

James said that rural health is often impacted by reduced access to health services, but that the Huon Valley is well serviced, with access to several programmes and activities with a focus on improving health and managing chronic disease.

“I would recommend people talk to their GP and the Huon Community Health Centre about the services they can access,” he said.

James said that his time in the Valley has given him a new appreciation for rural medicine.

“I would really enjoy a career in rural general practice, and I think it would be very rewarding,” he said.

“You are able to help patients throughout the various stages of life, and become part of the local community.

“It was a great feeling to work together with patients on a health plan, and see real improvements in their health and wellbeing over time.”

James said that the distance patients need to travel to access hospital services is the biggest issue that rural doctors face.

“Doctors may have to manage patients without immediate access to imaging, certain tests and other specialists in urgent situations.”

James said the intern programme has made him realise how important it is to have a wide range of clinical skills and experience.

“What a privilege it was having James as the first intern in this new programme, and it is great to hear that James is considering a career in general practice,” said Simon Hancock, the Practice Manager at the Huon Valley Health Centre.

“We now welcome Dr Olivia Chung as our next intern, who started in early April, and has hit the ground running.

“Olivia was a fifth year medical student last year who consulted and learned in our practice and has come back to the Huon Valley as an intern.

“It is great the Huon Valley Health Centre can provide a supportive practice for interns, and hopefully play a big part in increasing GPs in rural settings,” said Simon.

This article was supplied by the Huon News, originally appearing on Wednesday, 2 May 2018.

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