THE push to bring more doctors and nurses to regional areas like Ballarat has been given a small but important boost.
On Friday and Saturday Creswick played host to the National University Rural Health Conference, which brought 160 young medical, nursing and allied health students from universities around Australia to the region.
The conference, held at the Novotel Forest Resort, was designed to show off the benefits of practicing in a rural community.
It also took place just days after a Melbourne University study was released, showing that established doctors in metropolitan areas would need a pay increase of 130 per cent — or about $237,000 — to accept a job in a remote, inland town with poor social interaction and a big workload.
Creswick-based doctor Claire Hepper, who also presented at the conference, said the study was “slightly misreported” because it only took into account doctors who were already established.
“I think the mindset of ‘rural being less desirable’ has changed a lot in the last five to 10 years,” she said.
“I think we have to be very careful because financial is very low on the list when doctors are thinking about where they want to live and practice.
“Generally speaking, for GPs with families, education is very high on their list. Good community and professional support are also important, as well as lifestyle balance and other things outside of medicine.”
Dr Hepper grew up in Creswick, then spent 12 years in Melbourne before returning to the country.
“Towards the end of my studies I gravitated towards rural medicine, and as soon as I saw the benefits of practicing in smaller town communities, I never really considered working in the city,” she said.
Rural Health Workforce CEO Greg Sam said that attracting doctors to rural areas required a range of incentives.
“Rural medicine itself presents wonderful personal and professional opportunities, where doctors get to experience broad scope of practice and a real sense of community connection,” he said.
“We also need to make sure that prospective rural doctors and their families are well supported so they can continue providing the best of care to country communities.”