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Regional Medical Specialists Association

Rural workforce shortages contributing to burnout in psychiatrists and poor support for rural patients

RMSA workforce report

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists have just released their February 2024 report entitled ”Burnout and moral injury: Australian psychiatry at its limits”.  It is an important report, highlighting across-the-board issues in the current Australian and New Zealand psychiatry workforce.  However it is particularly telling in discussing the issues faced by rurally-practicing psychiatrists and their patients

RANZCP Chair of Rural Psychiatry Dr Matthew Coleman said that the findings have shone light on the severity of the workforce shortage crisis in country Australia.

“Around one in five Australians will experience a mental health condition, but in rural areas, the rates of suicide, self-harm and emergency admissions for mental illness increase with how remote you live.

“For some of the most vulnerable people in the bush, accessing essential mental health care can even be impossible. Help is too far away, costly, delayed due to long wait times or simply unavailable. 

“There is a critical and chronic shortage of psychiatrists in Australia. Not only are there not enough, but they are also unevenly distributed. 

“Only 14 per cent of Australian psychiatrists work rurally, but 29 per cent of the population – around 7 million people – live in regional, rural and remote areas. 

“Rural psychiatrists are under increasing pressure to do more with less. Ultimately, it’s the community that will pay the price. Something has to change. 

So, once again the specialist medical workforce is grossly maldistributed, with the majority choosing to live and work in Metropolitan centres.  This is a serious equity issue for people living in rural and regional Australia and the main issue the RMSA is here to address.

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