AHCWA calls on Commonwealth to re-think new salary policy for rural doctors

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA is very alarmed by a new draft Federal Government policy, which seeks to limit salary support given to GP Registrars working in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).

Currently, doctors working in ACCHS have their full salary paid by the Federal Government for up to 3 years.

However, a draft policy released by the government for comment this week reduces that salary support to only 12 months.

AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said this would have a profound impact on ACCHS around WA.

“Currently, doctors are committing to stay in regional areas longer partly because their salaries are guaranteed by the government for up to 3 years,” she said.

“If this support is limited to only 12 months, we are going to start seeing a never ending merry-go-round of staff who will only stay in a regional area until their support is withdrawn.

“This is going to have serious effects on Aboriginal patients in regards to continuity of care, which is vital for ongoing health and wellbeing.

“It’s also important for patients to build up trust and confidence in their doctors, and this will not happen if they see someone new every 12 months.”

Ms Nelson-Cox said the proposed change in policy was also likely to lead to a huge reduction in the number of doctors working in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

“The government is also proposing to withdraw financial support for doctors wishing to undertake Advanced Rural Skills Training, which will have a huge impact.

“As an example, if the new funding arrangements were to be implemented in 2016, the Aboriginal health services in the Kimberley would lose 15 of the 18 doctors who have been offered positions for the first half of the year.

“Clearly, this would severely limit the services the ACCHSs could offer, as they cannot afford to make up these salaries themselves.”

Ms Nelson-Cox said the new draft policy would also force ACCHSs to continually have to train new doctors, only to have them leave 12 months later.

“ACCHSs currently have some very experienced doctors who are capable of contending with the often complex medical needs of Aboriginal patients,” she said.

“If this new policy is implemented, they would have to replace the experienced staff with inexperienced doctors, which would obviously affect the standard of care provided.”

Ms Nelson-Cox called on the Department of Health and Federal Government to bring together key stakeholders to discuss and resolve the concerns regarding the draft policy.

MEDIA CONTACT: Rebecca Boteler – 0424 569 179 rebecca@campaigncapital.com.au

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