LOCAL medical providers have welcomed the Federal Government's plans to entice general practitioners to relocate to regional and remote communities that have difficulty attracting and retaining doctors.
The 2018/19 Federal Budget – Treasurer Scott Morrison's third financial outline and his last before the Federal Election – outlines a number of initiatives to improve health services for rural Australians.
The key feature of the government's Stronger Rural Health Strategy is to provide financial incentives to encourage general practitioners to move to rural and regional communities.
Cohuna and Kerang would benefit from this program, with health services in both towns struggling to recruit and retain general practitioners.
"From our point of view, this initiative is a move in the right direction as it would give general practitioners a taste of the rural lifestyle and help them to connect with communities," Northern District Community Health chief executive officer, Mandy Hutchinson said.
The district may also benefit from the creation of the Murray Darling Medical Schools Network, which will see a number of universities unite to train future doctors.
La Trobe University's campus at Bendigo, as well as Monash University's presence in the area's closest regional centre, could see trainee doctors and nurses spend time honing their skills locally thanks to the $95.5 million commitment.
"Whilst the addition of a medical school may entice country kids to study Medicine in regional areas, more needs to be done to encourage GPs to move to, and stay in, small regional towns," Kerang District Health chief executive officer, Robert Jarman said.
"At the moment GPs who work in rural areas receive increased payments through Medicare, but there needs to be some sort of initiative that rewards GPs who stay in rural areas.
"One example would be if a GP stays in a rural practice for 12 months, then they receive $50,000 for staying, and if they remain for another year they get another payment."
The government will also support a new training program that will create 100 places in a rural generalist program that will give participants more training in rural setting, with the aim that they will remain in rural areas once graduated.