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21 March 2022

Be There for Rural Queensland

Be There for Rural Queensland

Dotted right across Northern Queensland are rural towns with a lot to offer. Communities of friendly locals who always have time to stop for a chat, who rally around one another when someone needs a hand. Enterprising businesses, dedicated volunteering initiatives, and vibrant social scenes.

In early 2022, James Cook University’s GP Training program travelled to five of these towns in the region to gather stories in the communities that will welcome new General Practioner registrars in 2023. Featuring Cloncurry, Barcaldine, Emerald, Yeppoon and Mundubbera, the ‘Be There. For Them’ campaign gives future GPs a glimpse into life in these vibrant communities.

From farmers and graziers to entrepreneurs, librarians, bakers, and young families. We’ve showcased diverse communities that are facing a common problem: access to high-quality healthcare close to home.

There is a critical GP shortage in remote, rural, and regional areas across Queensland that is impacting the health outcomes of these communities. There are 3.8 doctors per 1,000 people in Australia’s cities, a figure which drops drastically to 2.3 per 1,000 in rural and remote areas.

As Australia’s only university training a fit-for-purpose health workforce, from undergraduate medical studies through to general practice, JCU is entirely committed to the region. This commitment is echoed by a rural and remote healthcare network who provide and support valuable health services from the Torres Strait to the Sunshine Coast, who are all about training doctors to meet health needs in underserved communities.

As we travelled across rural Queensland, locals would frequently share stories of how far they have to travel to see a doctor, of waiting times up to a month, and how the longevity of GPs staying in town can sometimes be measured in months, rather than years. Some of the community members summed up the need and what more doctors would mean for their town:

“To have more GPs in Emerald would make a really big difference. It would enable people here to easily go to the same doctor, build that trust and be proactive about their health.”

- Alexandria, Cotton Growers Association, Emerald.

“We would really benefit from having more doctors and having them stay longer. Out here, a lot of people are quite closed when it comes to their health, and they don’t want to be telling their story over and over again to a new doctor.”

- Wulli Wulli Elder Liz Law, Aboriginal Housing Society, Mundubbera

The need for a sustainable supply of GPs to rural Queensland is clear. ‘Be There. For Them’ aims to share the varied experience and enriching lifestyle current GPs are enjoying in towns around Queensland.

JCU GP registrars in these towns will tell you about the broad scope of practice, the supportive teaching environment and the multi-disciplinary, collaborative team, and the enjoyable lifestyle full of adventures.

Dr Emma Gillmore is a JCU GP Fellow in Cloncurry who moved to the northwest town in 2020 for training. Now, as a Senior Medical Officer at Cloncurry Hospital and a local GP practice, Dr Gillmore has discovered how rewarding a career in rural generalism can be.

“As a GP in Cloncurry, you manage every breadth and facet of people’s physical and mental health. It is very rewarding to be part of your patients’ journey through life and health care. That’s the whole point of rural generalism, that if you stay here long enough you get to be part of the generations of these families, which to me is amazing,” Dr Gillmore says.

Dr Bronte Donaldson is a registrar based at the GP practice in Cloncurry says a highlight of pursuing general practice in a rural setting is the diversity of the job.

“You’re doing all sorts of things that city GPs would usually refer to the hospital or a specialist. Out here you don’t have that option,” Dr Donaldson says.

While serving the needs of the community as a GP registrar, you’ll be receiving the support you need from JCU’s experienced medical educators and supportive hospital supervisors. Halfway through her GP training, JCU Medicine alumni, Dr Natalia Anderson in Emerald says:

“You've got supervisors and bosses who want you to excel and will get you involved doing procedural skills,” the second year JCU GP Registrar says. “It motivates you to stay here because it is such a supportive environment to learn and develop as a doctor.”

“For us, more doctors here would mean freedom. It would mean not having to worry about getting sick and wondering how long it’ll be until you see a doctor.”

- Megan Otto, Artesian Originals jewellery maker

“We're a long way away from the coast. The ability to have more doctors come out to be trained up here would be a big thing for Cloncurry.”

- Auxiliary Lieutenant Andrew Hobbs, Queensland Fire and Emergency Service, Cloncurry

NQRTH is an initiative of the Australian Government's Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) and is facilitated by James Cook University in partnership with public and private hospitals, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and GP clinics.

Cairns region
(07) 4226 8187

Central West region
(07) 4764 1547

Mackay region
(07) 4885 7122

North West region
(07) 4764 1547

Torres and Cape region
(07) 4095 6103

Townsville region
(07) 4781 3424