Innovation in rural workforce strategies by a national surgical society the ASPS experience

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Keith Bryant
Nicola R Dean

Keywords

surgeons, workforce, Australia

Abstract

Health services exist to address the health needs of the community. But in Australia at present there are not enough detailed data to tell us to what extent, community by community, our highly regarded health system is meeting those needs. We know that demand for health care services is growing faster than the overall economy, and that we no longer have a general shortage of doctors, but most problematically there is a significant geographic maldistribution of those doctors away from rural and regional areas.i
For plastic surgery services, there is very little understanding of what the aggregate needs of rural communities are, or how these needs vary by community. We know by anecdote that there is significant inequity in plastic surgery services and that rural and regional locations often have unfilled positions and diminished services. We note that 80 per cent of specialist plastic surgeons live and work wholly within the five largest Modified Monash level 1 (MM1) Australian cities.1 Only 8.5 per cent of specialist plastic surgeons are permanently based outside those five cities. We also note that this is a more serious negative divergence than other comparable surgical specialties.
While we briefly explore the basis for some ‘innovative’ solutions in this paper, we are constantly reminded that a prerequisite of any ‘solution’ should be an in-depth study of what Australian rural communities need or want in terms of plastic surgery services.

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References

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2. Bruening MH and Maddern GJ. The provision of general surgical services in rural South Australia: a new model for rural surgery. ANZ J Surg.1998;68(11):764–68. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1445-2197.1998.tb04672.x PMid:9814737
3. Maddern GJ and Wichmann MW. Rural surgical education: the Australian approach. In: Wichmann M, Borgstrom D, Caron N, Maddern GJ (eds). Rural surgery. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-78680-1_1
4. Chong A and Kiroff G. Preparing surgeons for rural Australia: the RACS rural surgical training program. ANZ J Surg.2015;85(3):108–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/ans.12880 PMid:25288463
5. Royal College of Surgeons. Rural health strategy: strategic action plan 2020 [PDF on the internet]. Melbourne, Victoria: Royal College of Surgeons [Last updated 15 December 2020 ; cited 8 March 2021]. Available from: https://www.surgeons.org/-/media/Project/RACS/surgeons-org/files/interest-groups-sections/Rural-Surgery/RPT-Rural-Health-Equity-Public-FINAL.pdf

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