More than 120 delegates attended Not just words on paper: the Statewide Rural and Remote Clinical Network Forum held on 6 June 2018 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The forum showcased what is being done at departmental and Hospital and Health Service levels to progress the Advancing rural and remote health service delivery through workforce: A strategy for Queensland 2017-2020 and was opened by the Deputy Director-General of the Clinical Excellence Division Dr John Wakefield, PSM. Dr Wakefield said that "as a former rural GP, it was both a challenge and privilege to carry that mantle" and thanked all those who provided care on the frontline, mentioning that the tyranny of distance and workforce challenges make it a special calling which, in his experience, is sometimes not fully understood by urban health services. He said the success in delivering optimum healthcare was in a large measure dependent on workforce, which the forum would focus on.
At the Moreton Bay Bug Battle (MBBB) segment of the forum, contestants battled fast and furiously to win the judges' and people's votes. Eleven contestants had exactly six minutes to pitch their project to the judges and audience which had to tie in to one of the key focus areas mentioned in the workforce strategy. The Judges’ choice went to Dr Tony Rahman and People’s choice to Dr Natasha Coventry. A full summary of the MBBB projects can be found here.
Department of Health speakers, including the Chief Allied Health Officer, Julie Hulcombe and the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Adjunct Professor Shelley Nowlan, provided updates on what is happening at strategic levels in their areas of rural health and delegates also heard from other experts in the rural health workforce.
The Assistant Deputy Director-General, Clinical Excellence Division, and Chief Clinical Information Officer, Professor Keith McNeil spoke enthusiastically about why the digital agenda is so important and how we need to radically rethink how we deliver healthcare to deal with the many challenges faced by the health system. Keith ended his presentation emphasising that "it is not about technology, but about improving clinical care [and] as we start to add machine learning, the genomic revolution, apps and wearables, we move towards the real prize, which is precision medicine for every patient."
Other presenters included Jodie McCallum who spoke about her grad year experience as a paramedic and nurse (dual degree), which she is currently undertaking in the South West Hospital and Health Service, and Professor Geoff Argus discussing the collaboration between the University of Queensland and University of Southern Queensland and Darling Downs and South West HHSs to help grow the emerging rural health workforce.
The day ended with workshop sessions on a variety of topics on how to grow and support the rural health workforce, including credentialing and how it could be improved to make it less complicated for GPs to be employed by the HHS. "Currently it is very hard, if not impossible in some rural areas for doctors to go on leave," said Dr Konrad Kangru, President of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland, "as getting a replacement doctor who is also credentialed to work in the local hospital is very difficult."
"It is very heartening to see the support for the rural and remote areas," concluded Associate Professor Bruce Chater, the Chair of the Statewide Rural and Remote Clinical Network. "When you are working in a remote area, sometimes being the only health professional available, it can be very isolating," agreed Anne Bousfield, a clinical midwifery consultant who works out of Roma. "So it is important to be reminded that we are not alone and there are other health professionals doing similar work and that we are supported by the department."
For further information or to express interest in attending future events please contact the Statewide Rural and Remote Clinical Network via Rural_Network@health.qld.gov.au.
PICTURED ABOVE (L-R): Dr Ewen McPhee, Dr Natasha Coventry, Dr Sree (Krishna) Venuthurupalli, Pauline Calleja, Dr Tony Rahma, Chrissie McInally, Jane Connell, Anne Bousfield, Emily Waddell and Dr Andrew Coltzau (MC).