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The future of Queensland’s rural medical workforce

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An update from the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland

The Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) is optimistic about the future of rural medicine. Our 25th anniversary conference in June was an outstanding celebration of bush camaraderie, the RDAQ’s rich history, and the intellectual contribution of the giants of rural medicine on whose shoulders we stand (all 23 past presidents were present). Colleagues from across the state, their families and students attended, and relaxed to covers by the famous Rural Rednecks.

However, the rural workforce faces major challenges. Like the three-legged stool of rural clinical placements — accommodation, clinical activity and clinical teachers — the rural workforce has three pillars that are similarly interdependent. All three pillars — supply, training and the working environment (closely linked to retention) — must be strong to ensure that the structure does not collapse.

Regarding the first pillar, the problems of inadequate supply, insufficient succession planning, and overreliance on international medical graduates (IMGs) and short-term locums are well documented. Recent data demonstrate our dependence on overseas-trained colleagues — just 53% of Queensland’s regional, rural and remote medical workforce was trained locally.1 We are a long way from being self-sufficient.