Qld Ambulance Service
Rural Queensland is getting specialised medical training facilities. Photo credit: Neil Noble

Written by Bridgette Vanderwolf, prepared for online by Holly Parkinson.

New training hubs are giving doctors opportunities to create better relationships in rural areas.

University initiatives and dedicated health practices are providing a much-needed link for rural and regional Queenslanders accessing healthcare.

The first of the three University of Queensland Regional Training Hubs has just been launched in Central Queensland.

Central Queensland Regional Training Hub Senior Academic Clinician Dr Ewen McPhee says the Hubs are designed to provide junior doctors from rural backgrounds with training opportunities closer to home.

“This is about taking the student training to the next level and actually looking at how we, first of all, recruit through our schools and university entries rural kids who’ve got an interest in training and then making sure that once they graduate from medical school they have a good regional training pipeline,” Dr McPhee says.

The program emphasises the importance of developing enduring relationships in rural areas.

“When people go to have surgery they won’t be getting a locum who’s flown in from somewhere else, they’ll be getting a local doctor who’s committed to the region.

“We know that these doctors will stay long-term, they’ll have their families and they’ll die local I guess and provide long-term commitment to rural people.”

He says these programs are also helping to address the unique needs of rural populations.

“In the broader sense, rural people have special needs; they have very different financial, emotional and other social ties to the bush than those of city people, access to care is always problematic and we know that health outcomes are poorer in country areas.”

Rural training now constitutes a major part of postgraduate medical studies.

Rural medical studies need more understanding of the difference between rural and urban. Photo credit: flickr, University of Exeter

University of Queensland Doctor of Medicine student Lauren Fernandes says these placements allow students to deal with different patients and issues.

“In a rural clinic in a rural place, they tend to have different priorities,” Ms Fernandes says.

“I think interacting with the different patient populations is really important and understanding the differences, because a lot of people actually grew up in an urban area so it’s a whole change of scope.”

Ms Fernandes says the expense of rural healthcare presents a huge barrier to access.

“A lot of the rural clinics aren’t subsidised at all, none of them bulk-bill, so all these patients are paying full out of their pockets, which for a lot of patients that’s quite daunting, so they’d rather not actually go to the doctors if they think it’s something they can manage,” Ms Fernandes says.

Vital Health is another service attempting to lower these barriers by providing allied health services for isolated patients.

Centre and Outreach Clinical Manager Sophia Miland echoes these unique problems faced by rural patients.

“Health literacy and actually just education surrounding what health is and how they should be looking after themselves is a really big concern because there is that level of isolation; they’re just not privy to as much media and attention and information as a big city would be.”

Ms Miland says they recognise the importance of tailoring services to the patients.

“You have to be realistic and suit your clientele because if you don’t suit them and their lifestyles and their situation you’re never going to be able to truly help them.”

The regional training hubs are part of the Australian Government’s Integrated Rural Training Pipeline for Medicine (IRTP).