A balance is needed between geographic convenience and the quality of services that can be provided locally for patients in remote areas, according to an article in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA).
There is a developing trend towards urban centralisation of surgical services, driven by a need to maintain service quality and care standards.
AdvertisementHowever, this creates geographical distances that can limit the choices available to Australian patients in remote or rural areas.
In an article for the MJA, Mr Grant Stewart, Clinical Research Fellow at Edinburgh University, and his co-authors say a better balance must be struck between rural and urban surgical service centres, to meet the needs of all Australians.
He says that of the 13% of Australia's population who live in rural and remote areas, many choose to have surgery at local facilities despite potentially increased risks.
They say they choose to stay local because they prefer to be close to home and support networks, there's usually a shorter waiting time for appointments, and it's more geographically convenient.
"It is important to ensure that high-standard surgical care is accessible to Australians who are geographically isolated from the expertise and facilities available in our major cities," says Mr Stewart.
"There is a role for urban specialised centres of excellence for the management of complex conditions or those requiring complex surgery.
"But core procedures within each surgical specialty should continue to be provided in rural areas."
Mr Stewart advocates for a collaboration between rural and urban surgical centres, to meet patient needs.
"Team members from both centres should participate in multidisciplinary meetings to plan patient care," he says.
"This would spread the workload, maintain everyone's skills and knowledge, and provide the maximum benefit for the most people."