Junior doctors this month will get an idea of the medical challenges faced by those in the state’s most remote communities.
The internships, administered by Ochre Health under the Commonwealth Government’s Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund, are designed to train and support doctors as they take on a career in rural medicine.
The program, in partnership with the Tasmanian Health Service, will find new doctors placed in medical centres in Scottsdale, Queenstown, in the Huon Valley, and on Flinders and King islands.
Ochre Health state president Dennis Pashen said the postings would allow doctors to be exposed to a greater breadth of medicine.
Ben Dodds is just one doctor who recently lived that life at Queenstown during a 13-week placement which ultimately won him the 2018 Intern of the Year award.
“Growing up on the northern coast of Tasmania, I was aware of the important role that local health services play in rural communities,” he said.
“Being able to work closely with emergency medicine, as well as the close connection to your local healthcare team – both your community and patients – makes rural generalist practice a great career choice, and it can open doors to other specialities that you don’t always see in metropolitan hospitals.”
A Legislative Council sub-committee inquiry last year into the state’s acute hospital services heard they were underutilised and more investment could ease pressure on the state’s major hospitals.
Rural Doctors Association of Tasmania president Eve Merfield said more investment in the development of a rural generalist workforce would allow for greater services in small regional hospitals and reduce locum costs, particularly at the North West Regional Hospital.
“Investment will ensure rural doctors and nurses are able to maintain and continue to develop their clinical skills and providing education and training opportunities in rural locations will support a strong tertiary hospital system,” she said.
"All rural generalists have emergency medicine skills. That is part of rural generalist training, so that they can work in different areas of the hospital."
Dr Merfield said state funding for a Rural Pathways program to enable more rural generalist practitioners ran out three years ago though funding was being sought from other areas of the health budget to enable the program director to keep in the position.
The last Tasmanian Health Service report showed the government had spent $42.5 million on locums in 2017-18.
The service had budgeted to spend $959.4 million on employee costs but ended up spending $1.09 billion - a variance of $138.2 million.