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Geographical mobility of general practitioners in rural Australia

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Key to improving the poorer health status that characterises people in rural areas is ensuring equitable access to appropriate health care.13 However, this requires recruiting and retaining an adequate supply of appropriate health workers, which is known to be difficult in rural and remote areas.4,5 While considerable research has been conducted on the factors and barriers that facilitate and impede medical workforce supply in rural areas, there is a dearth of quantitative empirical evidence relating to the dynamics of general practitioner mobility patterns — specifically, which doctors move where, at what frequency, and why.

Understanding GP mobility is important because of its impact on workforce availability — both in the origin area (place from which the doctor moved) and the destination area. Considerable investment is made by governments into health programs specifically oriented towards improving the recruitment and retention of doctors in rural areas, with the goal of maximising movement into and minimising movement away from rural areas.

Despite a large body of social sciences literature on both inter- and intraregional migration, its applicability to the health workforce is not clear. Unfortunately, research literature focusing specifically…