In a bid to cure Lithgow's GP shortage, a medical practice will sponsor city doctors to settle and train in Lithgow.
Ochre Health says Lithgow was chosen to take part in a national program to retain doctors in regional areas as the town regularly relies on locum doctors.
The Lithgow practise is one of four in Australia that will host sponsored doctors, from January.
The registrars will work through the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine's Independent Pathway, a fully accredited general practitioner training and education program.
The program gives doctors the skills they need to care for patients in both rural medical practice and hospital settings.
The three-to-four-year program will ensure important continuity of care for patients as the doctors are placed in a clinic that uses locum doctors to meet demand.
Ochre Health's longest serving GP in Lithgow, Associate Professor John Dearin, has more than 36 years' experience working as a GP throughout rural and regional communities in NSW.
"We are trying to encourage doctors to get out of the city and show them they can have a productive, fulfilling career as a doctor in the rural areas," he said.
Dr Dearin said he welcomed the initiative, saying that the addition of a registrar to Lithgow will bring enormous benefits to the community, which has struggled to retain long-term doctors.
"With one of the biggest populations of aging residents in the rural NSW area, Lithgow is in need of more permanent GPs who are committed to the complex health needs of our community.
"While we have been getting by with visiting doctors, specialists or locums, these services are expensive, unsustainable and do not provide continuity of care for patients."
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According to Dr Dearin, the sponsorship will offer opportunities to the young doctor that they might not get in Sydney.
"It will also equip them with the broad skills required to deal with the unique patient presentations in our area," he said.
"The idea is to provide training such they will eventually return as long term practitioners in Lithgow."
Dr Dearin said many doctors came from overseas to Lithgow for training but then left to work in the city.
"I understand they come to Lithgow because we are the closest to the metropolitan area, without actually being metropolitan, but then leave once they have got the training."
Dr Dearin recommends going rural.
"I have worked out here for more than 30 years and I am happy to say that it's a very good decision I made to go rural," he said.
The college program costs about $25,000 per participant per year and The Commonwealth provides funding of $15,000, while Ochre Health will cover the gap, including the application, enrolment, education program and training support fees.
"The fact Ochre is providing financial incentive to train is a commendable effort on their part," Dr Dearin said.
The aim is to make living and working in rural and regional communities more attractive to the doctors involved, by minimising their out-of-pocket costs.
Co-founder of Ochre Health Medical Centres and Director of Medical Services, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said he knew from personal experience that rural generalism was one of the most rewarding career options a doctor could choose.
"However, we still have a long way to go to encourage more young doctors to commit to rural communities," he said.
"A committed, well-trained GP workforce is essential to improving health outcomes in rural communities and we hope our sponsorship of this program will encourage young doctors to continue practising in regional communities, like Lithgow, for a significant proportion of their careers."
Dr Meldrum said that when he founded Ochre Health with Dr Ross Lamplugh 20 years ago they were both working as rural generalists in outback NSW.
"It is a privilege to be able to give back and assist the next generation, as well as continue to improve the health outcomes of the rural and regional communities we work in," he said.
As well as Lithgow, Ochre Health will be sponsoring registrars in Deniliquin NSW and Scottsdale and St Helens in Tasmania.
Ochre Health is now accepting applications for the January 2020 intake of doctors. To apply for a position, contact email@example.com or (02) 8356 3100.
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