The need for increased numbers of GPs within the Ballarat region could be alleviated in the coming years with more junior GPs opting in for rural training.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) recently reported a 40 per cent rise in junior doctors ticking the Rural Generalist box when applying for the RACGP's 2021 Australian General Practice Training (AGPT), compared to applications for 2020 training.
The training, which was established in 2018, aims to prepare junior doctors for the increased roles they will face within regional and rural communities.
Chair RACGP Rural Dr Michael Clements said there is a clear need for more rural doctors across Western Victoria.
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"Right now Rural Workforce Australia is advertising 25 GP vacancies in Western Victoria, including in Ballarat," he said.
"25 GPs is a lot, and that need is being echoed across the country.
"We know that in rural and remote areas there is less access to GPs and less access to specialists.
"What that means is when we are working in that environment, we need to be a bit more self reliant and we need to take management a bit further rather than if we are in metropolitan areas."
When looking at why the increase in people opting in for the training has been so significant, Dr Clements said there could be some correlation between it and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're yet to better understand how COVID is affecting people's decision making," he continued.
"In terms of the Rural Generalist training, we do know that we've changed the criteria to finish off that pathway. We also know that people are starting to look at major cities as potentially more risky than they have in the past.
"People like living in urban areas because of the normal lifestyle, however COVID certainly showed us that sometimes that density of living comes at a cost. Regional areas of Australia aren't immune from issues like this, however their case numbers are very low. If you're going to quarantine and isolate yourself, what's better than doing it on a few acres of property in regional areas."
Dr Clements, a rural GP and practice owner, said the benefits of working in a rural practice should be enough to entice people into the training on its own.
"We like to think that rural general practice is interesting enough to push people down that path on its own," he said.
"As someone who has trained and practices in rural communities, I completely understand why (there has been an increase in people opting for the training). I've gained so much professionally and personally by being connected to the rural towns that I've worked in."
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