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Enticing Doctors to Rural Community an Uphill Task

It almost sounds like some travel deal, except that it isn't. Prospects of cruising along the river Murray, sipping at wineries and feasting //at local gourmet restaurants are being used to lure doctors to the country towns of Albury and Wodonga, in Victoria, Australia.

These treats are welcome to doctors and their families for free- just to check out these towns for prospective employment.

Yet, these towns are just few among many, which are feeling the pinch of too less a doctor.

'We want to get people to come and have a look, and we're prepared to bring people up at our cost to showcase the area,' says Border Medical Association chairman Dr Scott Giltrap. 'We need to be proactive before there's a bigger medical shortage and there's too much competition, so we're not holding back', he adds.

The association has already collected donations of almost $900,000 from medical practices, hospitals and local government for a three-year recruitment drive. Part of this money goes into the paycheck of a newly employed recruitment officer, whose job is to see more country GPS beginning life at Albury and Wodonga.

The visitors will be shown everything from medical facilities and houses, to schools and even 'lifestyle choices'.

Dr Mike Moynihan, president of the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria, says sweeteners or perks (such as cheap housing and cars) has been common practice in smaller towns for years. But he expects more big regional towns having to provide similar incentives, as the doctor shortage intensifies. 'The next five to 10 years are going to be really bad … and the towns that get in first now and manage to keep them are going to do well,' Dr Moynihan opines.

The association estimates extra 200 doctors are needed in country Victoria, and about 900 across Australia.

The Australian Medical Association's state president, Dr Mark Yates, is of the opinion that if this plan works out, the State Government should consider paying for similar programs. 'If these are useful strategies, they ought to be repeatable,' he said.

A spokesman for Health Minister Bronwyn Pike said the State Government was investing more than $1.7 million this year to train more specialists in rural areas. He also pointed to its $4.4 million recruitment campaign, saying employing doctors from interstate and overseas was also crucial.


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