Curing medical shortages in regional communities
In 2007, Albury Wodonga was facing a shortage of medical staff. Only three medical practices were accepting new patients. Locals who needed to see specialists were forced to travel to Sydney (6 hrs), Melbourne (3.5 hrs) or wait for ‘fly in’ specialists.
This is a common story for many regional areas, but Albury Wodonga decided to take action into their own hands.
Border Medical Recruitment Taskforce (BMRT) was established and more than $900,000 was raised in the local community, including in-kind support from businesses, with the purpose of attracting new medical professionals to the area.
The funds were used to employ an Executive Officer to coordinate and support recruitment. This person was selected for to their credibility in the medical profession, excellent people skills and their ‘hands‐on’ approach.
BMRT has evolved over time as they learn what works and what doesn’t.
For example, in 2007, BMRT packaged and advertised an all-expense paid trip to the region for medial professions and their families that were considering relocating to the region. Despite the significant media attention, the response was very low.
Consequently, BMRT shifted their focus to professionals who are already interested in relocating to a regional area. This has seen BMRT concentrate on attracting medical professionals early in their careers, supporting current recruitment pathways and providing practical support for new recruits (and their families) to ensure those who make the move have a positive experience.
Common activities range from finding placements and opportunities for career development to introducing partners to people in the community.
The shift in focus appears to have been critical to the success of BMRT. It was reported in 2014 that over 90 GPs and specialists had been recruited to the region.
BMRT does not claim sole responsibility for this increase. However the practical support provided by staff who have a good reputation in the medical field is likely to have had a significant impact. Especially on the longer-term retention of these doctors.
The BMRT model has already been picked up by other towns that have been inspired by the success in Albury Wodonga. Bendigo has implemented a similar approach with the establishment of Central Victorian Medical Recruitment Taskforce. This Taskforce is already beginning to see success. This is a promising sign for other regions that are looking to combat skill shortages in their own communities.
Is your region working to fill a skill shortage in your area? If so we want to know about it. Share your story and help us support other communities encourage professionals to #makethemove to regional Australia.
- Border Medical Recruitment Taskforce website