Local News

Addressing NT Doctor Shortage

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Northern Territory health organisations have formed a collaboration to work with the Australian Government in addressing the decline in the number of GPs training in the region.

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance (AMSANT), and the NTPHN Rural Workforce Agency will develop a range of policy recommendations for review by the Australian Government.

The collaboration is seeking to address the approximately one-third drop in doctors entering the local NT GP training program over the past few years.

“For many years, there have been 55 doctors each year entering the GP training program through NTGPE,” said Dr Andrew Bell, Chairperson of NT Primary Health Network which includes the NT Rural Workforce Agency.

“This has meant close to 200 doctors at different stages of their general practice training in towns and very remote areas across the NT.

“In the last few years, numbers have dropped dramatically so that we are at least 20 training doctors short each year, or more than 60 less doctors over three years.

“While undertaking this high-quality, supervised general practice training program, these doctors are an integral part of our medical workforce.

“The training program includes service delivery in remote areas and very vulnerable populations, training doctors who are particularly experienced in our local environment.

“We need to maintain our current and future workforce, especially in areas where we have some of the most health disadvantaged people in the nation”, Dr Bell continued.

“We look forward to working in collaboration with the Australian Government on this important issue.”

AMSANT CEO John Paterson said that over the last decade, the major way in which the NT has been able to recruit and retain its own Australian-trained GP workforce has been through the GP registrar training program.

“GPs who do their training in the Northern Territory often stay in the Northern Territory,” said Mr Paterson.

However, Mr Paterson said that in recent years, a number of reasons can be attributed to the decline in the number of doctors training as a GP in the NT and nationally.

“We’ll be looking at key issues to address, including income gaps between GPs and other medical specialists, and other opportunities for improvement such as increases in entitlements, and incentive- based payments,” he added.

“For example, a solution for the income gaps might be to look at expanding the rural generalist pathways to all training posts in the NT.

“A solution for the entitlements issue could be to introduce a scheme that enables entitlements such as holidays, sick leave, and maternity leave to be transferable between different employers within the GP training program.

“Finally, we can do more to get GPs to do their training in rural and remote areas, through increased policy initiatives that incentivise this as a preferred training pathway over the non-rural pathway.”