The President of the Regional Medical Specialists Association (RMSA), Dr Peter Hughes, today drew attention to the shortage of medical specialists outside the metropolitan areas. He stated that nearly one-third of Australians live outside of Metropolitan areas and Australia produces among the highest number of medical graduates per head of population in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Half of these doctors become General Practitioners, and the rest go on to train as specialists, yet only a small fraction of these specialists live and work outside of the Metropolitan areas. He said that there are nearly ten times the number of specialists per 100,00 population in the Metropolitan areas compared to the density of specialists in the country areas.
General Practitioners and Rural Generalists remain the backbone of medical services in rural Australia, but support by medical specialists is essential. Regional centres, often hundreds of kilometres from major Metropolitan hospitals, need specialist surgeons, physicians, paediatricians, obstetricians, intensivists and psychiatrists staffing their hospitals around the clock.
Rural Medical Specialists serve medium and large rural and regional hospitals. They have broad-based skills and distinctive practices. They are readily taken in to the local community where they participate in cultural, sporting and often leadership activities.
The Rural Medical Specialists’ Association (RMSA) was formed in 2018 to promote awareness of this special group of doctors and promote the recruitment and specialist training of Australian medical graduates in rural and regional settings.
The RMSA has found that most rural specialists feel a greater affinity with their fellow rural specialists of any discipline than with Metropolitan specialists in their own specialty. Research conducted by the University of Queensland and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians shows that regional specialists want to have this unique identity recognised.
The RMSA also wishes to form a strategic alliance with the larger and longer-established Rural Doctors’ Association of Australia. Although our identities are different, we share common aims. Most importantly we seek to address the health inequities which result from maldistribution of the medical workforce around Australia.