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Regional Medical Specialists Association

Wagga Wagga Conference, 2022
Theme: Growing Our Own

Wagga Wagga has been able to develop a stable specialist workforce over the years. It is very obvious that this is the result of a deliberate plan involving all levels of government, including local council and voluntary bodies established specifically to support medical specialist recruitment.

RMSA Karen Pricey and Jenny May
Dr. Karen Price and Prof Jenny May

The conference opened with a medical workforce strategy plan a recession. Professor Jenny May AM, director of the University of Newcastle’s department of rural health, opened by reviewing the emerging evidence that if medical students spend a significant amount of time in rule locations, they are much more likely to return to Rural practice after graduating, even if they had been born in metropolitan cities.  She outlined the National Medical Workforce Strategy 2021-2031, with its emphasis on generalist, but in primary care and specialities.  Reform of the training pathways is considered essential to re-balance supply and demand in rural and regional areas.

RMSA Press Interviews 2022
Parliamentarians addressing local media Left to right: Dr. Joe McGirr MP for Wagga; The Hon Wes Fang MLA,Deputy President and Chair of Committees, NSW Legislative Council; The Hon Bronnie Taylor, NSW Minister for Rural Health and The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Member for Riverina and former Deputy Prime Minister.

The Hon Bronnie Taylor MLC, NSW Minister for Regional Health, told of the gradual erosion of GP and specialist numbers in regional NSW.  This is despite a massive regional hospital refurbishment and new building program, funded by the sale of the electricity networks (“poles and wires”).  She was appointed in the wake of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Rural Health with a broad-ranging brief to deal with workforce and outlined her plans.

RMSA Wagga Wagga Conference
Plenary session on Medical Workforce Strategies

Dr Joe McGirr, the Independent state MP for Wagga Wagga, tracked the numbers of medical students, Interns and specialist trainees returning to Wagga Wagga over the years and explained that this was supported by a deliberate, community-led program to make every new doctor in the city feel welcomed.  New medical arrivals are introduced to key community leaders at welcome receptions.  A mentor is assigned to help them and their families settle in, with such practical guidance as ‘where the locals shop’ leisure and community centres and schooling options.

RMSA Conference 2022
From left: The Hon Wes Fang MLC, Deputy President of the NSW Upper House, the Hon Michael McCormack, Commonwealth MP for Riverina, the Hon Bronnie Taylor, NSW Minister for rural Health, Dt Nick Stephenson, conference convenor and Dr Joe McGirr, state MP for Wagga Wagga.

Associate Professor Kerin Fielding introduced the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ (RACS) Rural Health Equity Strategy. Prof Fielding is an orthopaedic surgeon based in Wagga Wagga and has been appointed to chair this program.  It is a comprehensive and ambitious plan which includes a policy that every committee of the RACS should have a member drawn from a non-metropolitan area.

RMSA Conference Outside 2022
Wiradjuri Elder, Auntie Cheryl Penrith, welcomes delegates to her country, on a hill overlooking a misty morning in Wagga Wagga.

Other contributors included Prof Tara McKenzie, reviewing development of the Riverina Medical School with its associated Health Precinct and a stirring presentation by Jackie Brody on engaging aboriginal and Torres Strait islander students and community.  Dr Paul Mara AM, a GP in Gundagai for over 40 years, explained the trial about to start allowing rural GP trainees to have a single employer during their entire post-graduate training time.  This, he explained, will take away much of the uncertainty and anxiety that GP trainees face.  We look forward to the results of this trial, as we acknowledge how important a stable GP workforce is to rural centres. 

RMSA Opening Conference 2022
Delegates at the Welcome To Country ceremony
Wagga Wagga Conference 2022 Video


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