Specialists and GPs needed in Armidale

ARMIDALE will require an extra 18 health care specialists and three more part-time GPs to meet demand over the next decade, according to New England Medicare Local.

The organisation, which was officially launched in April to integrate the region’s health services, has outlined a health recruitment strategy for the next five to 10 years.

Among the specialists Armidale will need are an oncologist, child psychiatrist and orthopaedic surgeon. The town will also require three full-time visiting medical officers.

The three part-time GPs will be required to meet the national standard ratio of one per 1133 people.

The forecast took into account projected population growth, the size of the current workforce and the procedural needs of each town in the New England region.

New England Medicare Local CEO Graeme Kershaw said the health recruitment strategy had been launched to attract medical practitioners to the region.

“The medical workforce is aging faster than the average Australian workforce,” he said. “As more of these people move into part-time as they get closer to retirement, we need to have new practitioners moving through and regenerating the sector.”

Mr Kershaw said attracting health workers required co-operation between the public and private sectors, as well as a whole-of-community approach.

“We need to help people clearly understand that they can move to the country and still enjoy a terrific lifestyle,” he said.

“It’s a marketing approach as well and also making sure people are welcomed by the community. People can make a decision based on lifestyle as well as professional factors.”

According to Mr Kershaw, Armidale is well placed to attract health workers, but competition for practitioners had intensified.

“Armidale has some fantastic advantages, it has the university and is extremely picturesque,” he said. “What you have to keep in mind is the region is competing internationally instead of just nationally now.”

Aspects of the strategy will require extra state and federal financial support to allow for extra positions at local hospitals. Mr Kershaw said the strategy had the backing of local state and federal MPs.

“Local state and federal members have been willing to pass it on to State Parliament in Sydney and Federal Parliament in Canberra,” he said.

“A lot of local governments, who are often the ones that bear the brunt of a lack of health services, have supported it and are very interested in hearing commitment from higher levels.”

New England as a whole will require an extra 66 GPs and 49 resident specialists.

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