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Australia Rural doctors shortage could be solved if there were more like these central Queensland doctors

04:43  01 march  2021
04:43  01 march  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a person smiling for the camera: GP Adele Love says working in rural medicine is exciting and fulfilling. (ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler) © Provided by ABC Health GP Adele Love says working in rural medicine is exciting and fulfilling. (ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Adele Love is known as the ‘tears and smears doctor’ in the rural Queensland community she has served for more than 25 years.

With rural and regional towns struggling to attract doctors, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said her dedication to rural medicine was one shared by a minority.

The GP puts her endearing nickname — "tears and smears" doctor — down to her passion for and extensive knowledge of women’s health and mental health.

Dr Love arrived in Theodore as a trainee in 1994, she met her husband at social ballroom dancing, and there was no looking back.

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"Variety is the spice of life, and in rural medicine, that's what we get," she said.

Having grown up on a cattle property near Mundubbera, landing a job in the bush fulfilled her dream.

"I wanted to be able to enjoy rural life which I'd grown up and loved, and to be able to provide people with continuity of care, holistic care within the context of the family and the community in general," she said.

"It's just the satisfaction from knowing that you've helped people, particularly with mental health issues, get better and be able to function back in the community again."

Working part-time has allowed Dr Love to spend time on her cattle property with family.

"Work-life balance is really important, and it's that balance of the rural life that I like, as well as challenging and interesting medicine, which you get in rural practice," she said.

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‘It can make a big difference’

Liz Clarkson spent the first few years of her life in the neighbouring town of Moura.

Her mum was a rural veterinarian, and her dad, a rural dentist. Some life-changing events bolstered her desire to pursue a career in rural medicine.

"Some of my family members lived in rural towns [without] doctors or medical centres or nurses within the town. I saw them either suffer from complications from diabetes or die prematurely from diseases," she said.

"I think if they'd lived in a town where they had access to healthcare, it wouldn't have happened."

A local doctor diagnosed Dr Clarkson with a congenital heart defect as a little girl.

"I had my open-heart surgery down in Brisbane back in the early 1990s. Then I was able to have the follow-up in Rockhampton with the cardiologist and follow-up with the local rural doctor as well," she said.

Dr Clarkson said continuity of care and having a steady and passionate rural workforce was crucial.

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"It can make a big difference for families, particularly if they're having to travel back and forth several hours to see a doctor, that can certainly delay diagnosis and worsen their health outcomes," she said.

"Bruce [Chater] has been out here for 40 years, and Adele [Love] has been out here going on 26 years. You just don't see that in a lot of rural towns anymore."

Dr Clarkson spent a few years in large hospitals before snagging a position back in Theodore, where she completed her final two years as a registrar.

Once her fellowship certificates arrive, Dr Clarkson will officially be a GP and Rural Generalist.

She plans to become a practice partner and stick around.

"I always wanted to raise my kids in the country as well so that's an added bonus out here, really," she said.

Giving rural medicine a go

Third-year Doctor of Medicine student, Georgia Austin grew up with Dr Chater as her GP.

When the 23-year-old saw the rural clinical school advertised, she knew it was an irrefutable opportunity to learn from a doctor she idolised, with the bonus of visiting family.

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"I heard that you get to do a lot of stuff hands-on here. More so than if you are in the city and it's true," she said.

"Day one, we were in doing procedures with the doctors which was amazing."

Ms Austin hoped the 12-week placement would give her a clearer idea of which specialty to pursue.

"I'm not quite sure yet but rural practice is looking more and more appealing as the weeks go by," she said.

"You feel more like you're treating a person rather than just a patient with a medical condition.

"You can be seeing up to four generations of one family, which is just amazing."

Attracting doctors to the bush

AMA Council of Rural Doctors chair Marco Giuseppin said attracting doctors was an ongoing issue.

"We have seen some of the numbers increase in terms of doctors in some of our regional centres and larger rural towns," Dr Giuseppin said.

"But in some of these areas that are really quite remote, we're still struggling to attract and retain the right people."

Dr Giuseppin said the lack of doctors in rural areas affected more than individual communities.

"It's a problem for our cities that are currently oversupplied with doctors and addressing that maldistribution by making rural careers more attractive is something that we need to do," he said.

But he is confident the work being done by governments and the AMA will succeed.

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This is interesting!