Mayor outlines plans to help keep medical workers in Roma
The best medical voices through southwest Queensland came together, collaborating with Maranoa mayor Tyson Golder to discuss the best ways to maintain a stable and effective health workforce in the bush.
More than 100 delegates attended the forum over the weekend, agreeing that better planning and greater collaboration through shared resources will improve patient care and help fill the gaps in rural and remote primary health care.
"Out here in the bush people don't care whose logo is on the shirt, they just want access to services that are affordable, as close to their communities as possible, and appropriate for them," Western Queensland Primary Health Network (WQPHN) CEO Sandy Gillies said.
"Sharing resources not only means workforce on the ground, it also means sharing data about populations in western Queensland, because at the moment the information is far too siloed across different organisations leading to reduced clarity on the burden of disease in certain communities.
"The forum was very positive and showed there is a willingness to collaborate more and unshackle some of the jurisdictional barriers that have hindered co-operation in the past, a sentiment that pleasingly has parallels with what's being strived for at a national level in rural health," Sandy Gillies said.
The two day forum was a collaboration between Health Workforce Queensland and the WQPHN, featuring speakers including National Rural Health Commissioner Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart, leading General Practice and Primary Care Researcher Professor Claire Jackson, and Adelaide medico Dr Chris Bollen.
"Fifty per cent of all health professionals experience the 'burnout factor' and in the bush it's more pronounced because of the geographical isolation, lower levels of support, high workloads and patchy internet connectivity," said Dr Bollen who specialises in helping General Practices improve performance.
"Burnout means you go to work each day feeling nauseated, you struggle to sleep, and when you get to work there's a sense of dread, and that's when patient care suffers and errors can occur.
"We need to create Practices that have a sense of wellbeing for staff and patients alike, and one of the keys to that is support for the partners and children of the health professionals who've relocated to rural or remote regions, because it's often not the partner's choice to make such a big move," Dr Bollen said.
The strategy of "partner support" was echoed by Maranoa Regional Council Mayor Tyson Golder, who welcomed delegates to the region.
"One thing I'll be bringing to council is a Partners' Policy, a strategy to get direct feedback from partners of health professionals on what they want when they come here, because that's gold as far as workforce retention in the bush is concerned," councillor Golder said.
"When you go to a country town on a Saturday afternoon, there is no one in the main street because they're all out doing things.
"We've got so much here that a lot of health professionals don't experience because they don't get embedded into the culture, and then they leave.
"A conference like this with health professionals is a great opportunity to promote the lifestyle and culture of this region because it's welcoming, supportive and a fantastic place to live," he said.
National Rural Health Commissioner Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart says one of the ways to attract and retain health professionals in the bush is to target universities.
"If you attract kids from rural and remote areas into universities to the undergraduate courses, we know that they are much more likely than their urbans peers to end up working in the bush," Professor Stewart said.
"But it's also about giving them experiences that support any interest they might have in returning to work in rural and remote communities, because if they only see examples of the very best work in urban settings, then that's where they'll stay.
"So the challenge is to ensure undergraduates see examples of excellence in rural and remote settings, so they know what that work looks like, and in turn they'll be more inclined to train for that type of work," she said.
Feedback from Key Delegates at the Forum
Chris Mitchell, Health Workforce Queensland CEO -"I took away a sense of hopefulness, a sense of genuine collaboration and saw significant opportunities of how we can work together, to make sure our patients are better off and our communities are healthier."
Associate Professor Geoff Argus, Director of Southern Queensland Rural Health - "Too often healthcare occurs in silos, so it was wonderful to hear about the incredible initiatives occurring across the southwest at the individual organisation level and through collaborative partnerships in both health service delivery and health workforce solutions."
Matt Boyd, Acting South West Hospital and Health Service CEO - "It was a wonderful health forum and fantastic to see the commitment to continue to work with each other on improving the access and health of our communities by partnering to deliver projects, investigating innovative workforce models and co-designing models of care with our communities to meet their needs."