Strengthening Medicare General Practice Grants Program welcomed by rural practice
Rural Health West welcomes the recent announcement of a $220 million boost to general practice through the Australian Government’s Strengthening Medicare General Practice Grants Program.
The grants program is designed to support general practices and eligible Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to invest in training, equipment and minor capital works.
Rural Health West Chief Executive Officer Tim Shackleton said the investment will be warmly welcomed by general practices throughout Western Australia.
“The viability and sustainability of rural general practice has become increasingly fragile,” Tim said.
“Increased costs and the scarcity of clinical and administrative workforce in many locations threaten the sustainability of health services.
“These grants will provide some much needed investment for general practices to upgrade and update their systems and processes.
“Practices can also the grants to attain or maintain practice accreditation, which is vital in securing other sources of funding support and being eligible to employ GP registrars.”
Although this funding is a positive step in improving general practice sustainability, more needs to be done to improve the appeal of rural general practice.
“Fewer medical graduates are aspiring to work in general practice; and we have observed a significant increase in the number of rural general practitioners retiring over the past 12 months,” Tim said.
“As a result, an increasing number of communities are struggling to attract and retain appropriately qualified general practitioners.
“This in turn has resulted in more local government authorities supplementing resident GPs incomes or expanding the range of incentives on offer to prospective GPs.”
From Kununurra to Esperance, Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) has so far identified more than 40 local councils that are using ratepayers’ money to fund some level of primary health service.
As a primary health care advocate and service provider for rural and remote communities, Rural Health West believes this is an unacceptable burden on councils many of whom have limited financial resources.
“More clarification is being sought regarding the eligibility criteria for local governments who own and operate general practices to access funding through these grants.
“We look forward to the introduction of more initiatives aimed at redressing this current funding imbalance, and alleviating the financial stress currently experienced by both rural GPs and the local communities supporting them.”
Strengthening Medicare – General Practice Grants Program
WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) is responsible for administering the grants program in WA.
All eligible practices will be contacted directly by WAPHA from Monday 24 April.
Grant applications must be submitted by 15 June 2023.
For further information, visit https://www.wapha.org.au/health-professionals/general-practice-grants-program/