Action needs to be taken now if regional NSW is to see a sufficient number of general practitioners (GPs) servicing rural towns in the future.
There is already a shortage of GPs practicing in regional NSW and this is on track to exacerbate if changes aren't made to attract more doctors to the profession.
The General Practitioner Workforce Report released in 2019 predicted the Australian health system would lose over 9000 full-time GPs by 2030, with the 2022 report released in May indicating a worsening of this issue.
Rural Doctors Network member and Bathurst GP Dr Pav Phanindra said the shortage is due to a combination of things including COVID, wages and workloads, and some strategic marketing needs to be done to encourage GPs to work in rural areas.
"Obviously the ratio of GPs has always been low in regional and rural areas ... what they've been saying is that 50 to 70 towns around NSW will have shortages in the future," Dr Pav said.
"Most doctors are not finding general practice appealing so I think we need to market this better.
"I think a combination of pay, work hours as well as the incentive, and also the burnout is huge as well ... so I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done and I think that's where we need to focus our energy on for the future."
Dr Pav said another issue is replacing current general practitioners who are highly skilled in multiple areas.
Procedural GPs are trained in other areas including anesthetics, obstetrics and surgery, and can perform a very high volume of work.
This means it could potentially take three doctors to cover the work that one procedural GP can perform, when they retire or move on.
Dr Pav said one solution could be to have medical students finish their studies and complete internships in the Central West region, and coordinate between Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst.
"The Federal Government has committed close to $150 million to look at what they could do to attract more doctors," Dr Pav said.
"Coming up with a curriculum where medical students can actually study, work, train and continue training in the rural health networks would be a wonderful tool."
It won't be an overnight fix, but it's crucial to get the ball rolling now to make the profession of general practice more appealing by addressing the key issues; wages and workloads.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.