A record number of permanent senior doctors will deliver services throughout the Central West this year.

Central West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr David Rimmer said
the region would have 22 permanent senior doctors on its books this year, along with five junior doctor
training positions.

“And this year, for the first year ever, we will have no locum-filled medical officer positions at all once the
last of our new permanent doctors starts in March,’’ he said.

“Our medical establishment this year will include two permanent doctors at Winton, three at Blackall, four
at Barcaldine and 10 at Longreach,’’ he said.

“In addition we have Dr John Douyere as the Medical Director of the State-wide Rural Generalist
Program, we also have a consultant psychiatrist, Dr Puru Sagar, and myself as Executive Director of
Medical Services.’’

Dr Rimmer said the region was becoming increasingly attractive for both senior and junior doctors
looking for new challenges.

“We have seen a steady expansion in our permanent senior doctor ranks in recent years thanks to our
increasingly successful recruitment programs,’’ he said.

“Last year we had 14 permanent senior doctors in the region, with our remaining senior medical
positions filled by rotating locums.

“In 2014, we had only six permanent senior doctors in the region, with all other medical positions filled by
rotating locums. We also had no junior doctors at all.

“This growth in the Central West’s permanent medical establishment is a reflection of the hospital and
health service’s strategy over the past several years of reducing reliance on locums by attracting more
permanent doctors, aiming specifically at young Australian graduates.

“In previous years, Central West Health experienced major difficulties in recruiting and retaining
permanent doctors in the region.

“A new approach was needed.’’

Dr Rimmer said, with the support of the Central West Health Board, a new medical workforce model was
developed.

He said this was based on the idea of a group practice where all doctors were paid as Senior Medical
Officers, employed by the health service and released to work in GP practices when not at the hospitals.

“All our senior doctors, all of whom have advanced skills in other areas of medicine apart from general
practice, now work as part of a single Central West Health-wide medical pool servicing our hospitals,
health centres and GP practices,’’ Dr Rimmer said.

“This allows them, as a team, to provide patients with a higher level of care, as well as allowing them to
support each other and cover each other’s leave without less need for us to use external locums to fill
any short-term gaps in the workforce.

“It also allows us to provide patient centred clinical care that is delivered by appropriately skilled
clinicians, in a timely fashion, as close to home as is safe.

“Just as importantly, having such a pool of senior and highly skilled doctors has given Central West
Health the capacity to host, teach and supervise the next generation of young doctors.

“That’s why we are now able to host junior doctors undertaking training throughout the region.

“We also have six final year medical students from James Cook University in our facilities working and
studying with us.

“This has been a major turnaround for a rural and remote health service such as ours and I must
commend the Central West Health Board for its strong and far-sighted support of the innovative medical
workforce recruitment model that has been developed for our region.

“The benefits for patients have been and will continue to be enormous.’’
Dr Rimmer said the Central West now was very much regarded as an attractive place for doctors to
work, train, and get valuable experience in rural and remote medicine.

“I think our point of difference is the investment we make in young people from our local area who are
undertaking medical training,’’ he said.

“We give them an opportunity to train some of their course where their families are, and we also support
our junior doctors so that they want to come back to the Central West.

“It is particularly pleasing that we now have a Central West person in almost every year of medical
studies, including Winton resident Kate Durack who recently graduated as a doctor from James Cook
University in Townsville.

“For the senior doctors, the point of difference is that we work with them to ensure they have an
appropriate work life balance and always feel supported as part of a Central West team dedicated to
serving our patients.

“Patient care and good outcomes is about a whole team working together, not just medical but also
nursing, allied health and other support staff.

“Strengthening any element of this team, such as our medical establishment, contributes positively to
improved patient care. It also contributes to Central West Health’s central vision of providing excellence
in care for remote Queenslanders.’’

ENDS