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Leading the rebirth of the rural obstetrician

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In 2002, 30% of all Australian births occurred in non-metropolitan hospitals, and 57% of these hospitals did not provide specialist obstetric cover.1 Antenatal care led by general practitioner obstetricians is offered in 50% of South Australian and Victorian public hospitals and is the only public sector model in most non-metropolitan hospitals.2 GP obstetric care has been shown to provide safe care for pregnant women at low risk of complications, and access to such services in rural Australia is essential.38

A looming crisis in the provision of rural obstetric services in Australia was identified in 2007.9 An important study of survey data from 2003 reported that Victorian GPs were becoming less likely to provide obstetric management and that half of the existing GP obstetricians intended to cease practising in the next 5–7 years. In addition, they found that 71% of GPs who completed a Diploma of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (DRANZCOG) did not then go on to practise independent procedural general practice obstetrics.9

Factors contributing to the forecast deficit in GP obstetric services included a rise in specialisation, centralisation of services, concerns…