The president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia says a new model of employment for rural generalist trainees will help boost the future of the workforce.
This week, the Federal Government announced a pilot 'Single Employer Model' for Rural Generalist doctor trainees, with the first group to be trialled in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, in NSW.
This comes as the shortfall of doctors reaches alarming levels in the Northern Territory and the rest of Australia.
In Katherine, waiting times for an appointment with a doctor have reached up to two weeks with only two General Practitioners attending to a population of more than 10,000.
"Currently, junior doctors are employed by the state hospital system while they are undertaking their early training years, and they receive all the usual benefits you get working as an employee," RDAA President, Dr John Hall, said.
"Sick leave, holiday pay, workers compensation, and maternity leave, all these entitlements, and the accrual of them, are available to them as hospital staff.
"But once they finish this part of their training they are faced with a difficult choice.
"If they want to become a General Practioner or Rural Generalist, they need to leave the hospital and become essentially self-employed, working out of a private general practice within the community, even though they are still required to train and be supervised, losing their accrued benefits."
Dr Hall said the pathway has been a significant barrier in enticing junior doctors to choose GP or RG as a career option.
"If this pilot program works is will be a massive win for the bush," he said.
Under the Single Employer Model, the Murrumbidgee Local Health District will remain as the employer of RG trainees in that district, so junior doctors finishing their time as a hospital trainee will be able to keep their employee benefits and entitlements while undertaking RG training.
Dr Hall said the model would provide a significant incentive for young doctors to choose to take up a career as a RG.
"Rural Generalist doctors are trained in General Practice combined with other advanced skills in areas needed by rural communities," he said.
"A model like this could be a major part of the National Rural Generalist Training Pathway, and give a level of support for doctors choosing rural generalist practice, which will provide a supported training and career pathway to develop the doctors needed in the bush."
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