THEY are the rural health professionals who go into bat for the bush and their commitment to country folk is second to none.
About 260 medical professionals from across rural and remote Queensland will converge on Brisbane next month for the annual Rural Doctors Association of Queensland conference.
RDAQ President Konrad Kangru said the event would give participants the opportunity to connect and share knowledge with others in the field.
Dr Kangru has worked as a general practitioner in Proserpine since 2005 and previously worked in Mount Isa and Toowoomba, with relieving stints in Richmond, Cloncurry, Julia Creek and Doomadgee.
He said attracting staff to the regions, and particularly isolated communities remained a challenge for the industry, but inroads were being made.
“The medical workforce is changing here there no doubt about it,” Dr Kangru said.
“We've got almost equal numbers of women entering the rural medical workforce, the number of medical graduates have changed a lot over the last 30 years the females outnumber the males these days.
“It’s a lot about lifestyle and having access to peer support, making sure families are well supported and spouses have a chance to get meaningful employment, and the kids are going to get good quality education.”
Dr Kangru is himself originally a city slicker, having grown up in Melbourne. Ultimately, the decision to move to rural Australia came easily.
“It certainly was not the usual progression,” he said.
“The aspiration I suppose had been Red Cross or Medicens Sans Frontier, but then I realised that we've got areas of rural Australia that are nearly as bad as third world countries and when you look at the conditions in a lot of our indigenous communities, I thought it's probably a little bit hypocritical of me to be going off trying to save the world when we've got places here where we're not even looking after our own citizens well.”
Dr Kangru said he believed conditions had improved for many rural communities since he started his career, but there was still work to be done.
“I think that we are making inroads, I think that we're probably making more or a genuine effort. We're still a long way away from that actually being enough but i hope that we've got a lot of the sentiment in the right place.
“I still look at communities like Kowanyama where as a state and as a first world county we're desperately letting our own citizens down with the provisions, so a lot of those are isolated north west communities and Cape York communities where really we should be doing much much better.
“When you look at the statistics for places like Cherbourg and the incidences of diabetes kidney disease in those communities, they really are the worst in Australia yet they really are only an hour and a half away from a major city so we still have a long way to go.”
Dr Kangru said lifestyle factors including smoking rates and alcohol consumption contributed to poor health outcomes in rural communities.
“It is still a major contributor to the poor outcomes you see in lifespan and life expectancy but also the ills that people are living with along the way.
“We are making great inroads into smoking rates… alcohol misuse is definitely still a major concern in rural areas, but we probably don’t have the same issues with illicit drug use to the same extent as metropolitan areas either.”
Dr Kangru said people in rural areas should have the same access to services as those living in capital cities.
“There are so many advantages to living ruraly that we would never want to think that somebody is sacrificing their health to be able to pursue a rural lifestyle,” he said.
“We want to make sure that all the same opportunities that metropolitan patients have got to look after their health care are available for people in the bush as well.”