Despite the maldistribution of General Practitioner’s in the bush and 17 rural GP vacancies across the western Local Health District (LHD), doctors have come forward and said they hope to live, work and study long-term in the region.
According to the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) vacancies register, there are 17 GP positions available in 12 towns in the Western LHD.
The towns include Bathurst (two), Condobolin (two), Cowra (one), Dubbo (three), Forbes (one), Gulargambone (one), Lake Cargellico (one), Nyngan (one), Orange (one), Parkes Two), Walgett (one) and Wellington (one).
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General practice regional training organisation GP Synergy said it has been a boom year for GP training in western NSW, with 135 GP registrars living and working in Western NSW, 25 of those based in Dubbo.
One such doctor is Dr Paul Lunney who grew up in Sydney and spent a year in Dubbo as part of his medical training, which set him on the path to becoming a rural GP.
Dr Lunney has a resolve to stay in the central west for the long term.
“After completing medical school, I returned to Dubbo, working at Dubbo Base Hospital for two years before entering GP training here,” Dr Lunney said.
“I’ve enjoyed two terms of GP training in Dubbo, and I’m currently spending a term training in Gilgandra to broaden my skills as a rural GP.
“I would ideally love to stay in Dubbo for the longer term. This community has been so welcoming to me, a pleasure to live and work in – it has become home.”
CEO of local GP training provider, GP Synergy, Mr John Oldfield said training in rural areas is critical to ensuring primary healthcare is delivered to rural communities.
“Nationally, 50 per cent of doctors training to become GPs do so in rural areas. Not only does this ensure rural communities don’t miss out on the benefits of the GP training, it also means doctors who want to stay in rural areas to complete their general practice specialist training can do so,” he said.
Based in GP Synergy’s Dubbo office, Dr Anna Windsor, GP Synergy’s Regional Head of Education for Western NSW said the future for the region is bright with 100 per cent of the available training places for Western NSW filled for the 2018 GP training intake.
“As a GP in the Central West, I find it rewarding and of enormous importance that we train GPs here,” she said.
“By maintaining the rural training pipeline for doctors who want to remain living and learning rurally is essential to building a strong future rural GP workforce.”
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Aspiring general practitioner and former Wellington local Dr Troy Gersbach spent three years studying medicine at the University of Newcastle.
He completed his medical degree last year and is now undertaking his internship at Dubbo Hospital.
After five years studying through the University of Newcastle, Dr Gersbach will now spend two years as a junior medical officer (JMO) at Dubbo Hospital.
He is training on a scholarship with the Royal Australian Air Force, and has just applied to start his GP training. That will take him out to 2025.
“But after that I’m coming straight back here … or further west if I can, as a GP,” Dr Gersbach said. “I love rural medicine.”
But this passionate doctor will have to leave the bush to become a rural GP.
Dr Gersbach welcomed recent from the federal government for medical student places to be re-allocated to regional centres.
But the “real issues” lie at the post-graduate training end of the pipeline.
“If I want more post-graduate training I’ve got to head back to the city, I’ve got to head back to the metropolitan areas to get that kind of exposure,” Dr Gersbach said.
“I think exposing people to more rural medicine, and if they can do it through their whole degree, will only bring more people out to the areas of need, such as here.”