Chair of the AMA Rural Reference Group (AMARRG), Dr David Rivett, today congratulated the Government on relaxing restrictions to the extension of emergency medical training as part of the Rural and Remote Procedural GPs Program, and providing more support for GPs to participate.
Dr Rivett said the Government had included emergency medicine in the original 2005 extension to the program, but had placed onerous restrictions on an otherwise positive initiative.
The 2005 extension left a geographic restriction on the initiative to Rural and Remote Areas (RRMA) 4-7 (in contrast to the rest of the program that covers RRMA 3-7), and there was a two-day limit on emergency training. The Minister was lobbied to restore RRMA 3-7 coverage and remove the two-day cap on training. Today's announcement by the Government reflects that revision.
"Emergency medicine is core work for country GPs, so today's announcement is very welcome despite being overdue," Dr Rivett said.
"There has been disquiet since 2005 about the restrictions on emergency medicine training from the Program but, to his credit, Health Minister Tony Abbott has listened to the arguments from the AMARRG and others and delivered the missing piece of a good policy.
"GPs play a vital role in delivering emergency medicine in RRMA 3 locations, and should not have been denied access to the program.
"Some GPs will require minimal up-skilling in emergency medicine, whereas others working in more remote locations will carry much greater responsibility.
"These doctors will need to be able to access high levels of educational support.
"A two-day limit on training imposed an artificial barrier on the acquisition of essential skills by doctors working in more remote areas.
"Training for emergency medicine will now be expanded to include RRMA 3 locations such as Lismore, Toowoomba, Dubbo, Wagga, Bendigo, Ballarat and Whyalla.
"This is a welcome common sense initiative that recognizes the significant costs for rural GPs in maintaining essential skills that benefit the rural communities. Country patients will be the winners," Dr Rivett said.
The maximum number of training days supported each year will increase from two to three. As well, from 16 April, the maximum value of all grants will increase from $1,500 per day to $2,000 per day.