Rural Health Commissioner ‘worked tirelessly’ to close health gaps

Doug Hendrie

30/06/2020 3:14:34 PM

In his last day in the office for Australia’s inaugural National Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Paul Worley is leaving to plaudits.

Paul Worley
Outgoing National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley worked hard to bring organisations together.

During his time as Rural Health Commissioner, Emeritus Professor Worley facilitated the Collingrove Agreement between the RACGP and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, defining the role of a rural generalist.
That agreement paved the way for the National Rural Generalist Pathway.
Rural generalists are seen as a key way to overcome the longstanding health gap between city and rural Australians.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon told newsGP he was sad to hear Professor Worley was leaving his role, which he had held since late 2017.
‘Professor Worley has worked tirelessly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous rural communities in this ground-breaking role,’ Dr Nespolon said.
‘He has established a very strong foundation for the next Rural Health Commissioner to continue to improve workforce availability to help decrease the inequities that exist between rural and urban patients.’
Chair of RACGP Rural Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda praised Professor Worley for his skill in bringing organisations together.
‘He has done a fantastic job. He had a clear vision of what needed to be achieved and he had the ability to get people to collaborate and share a vision for the future of rural health,’ Associate Professor Shenouda told newsGP
‘His mandate was to come up with a solution for the Rural Generalist Pathway, and he managed to do that. We hope his efforts will be the base for the future.
‘I want to thank him, and also his family since he was travelling all the time, for making this possible.
‘We look forward to collaborating with the new Rural Health Commissioner.’

L–R: ACRRM’s Dr Michael Beckoff, National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley, then-Minister for Rural Health Bridget McKenzie, RACGP Rural Chair Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda come together in 2018 to help develop of a national framework for rural generalism.

Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton praised Professor Worley’s leadership and engagement with the health sector and local communities as ‘integral’ to pushing forward with major rural health reforms.
‘He has demonstrated his energy and passion to deliver on the objectives of the inaugural office through brokering the landmark Collingrove Agreement and leading the development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway,’ Minister Coulton said.
‘I want to acknowledge and thank Professor Worley for his leadership establishing the office and his profound commitment to championing rural practice.’
In response, Professor Worley described his time in the role as a great privilege.
‘We have worked together across communities and professions. We have integrated the latest research evidence with a holistic understanding of healthcare learned from our Indigenous custodians,’ he said.
‘We have affirmed the quality of rural clinicians and the collegiality, courage and creativity of rural people, even in the face of natural disasters and persisting inequities of access to healthcare, particularly for those who live in remote Australia.
‘The support of Government for the paradigm-shifting solutions we have developed gives us cause for great optimism. I now look forward to new opportunities to continue my work to expand the horizons of remote and rural healthcare and education.’
After Professor Worley’s departure, the office will be made permanent and its remit broadened, with a new commissioner expected to begin in the role this week.
New deputy commissioners will be appointed to cover areas such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, nursing and allied health.  
‘[The role will] maintain the confidence of vulnerable rural communities facing doctor shortages and higher burden of disease,’ Minister Coulton said.
‘[C]ontinuing the Office is a key component of our long-term approach to rural health policy.’
The Federal Government announced a $550 million rural health package in 2018, including incentives for doctors and nurses to go rural, five new medical schools in the Murray–Darling region, and streamlined general practice training.
The nationwide rollout of telehealth to help combat COVID-19 has also been a boon to rural and regional people who can find it hard to access healthcare.
‘The rapid reforms we’ve made to telehealth due to COVID-19 demonstrate the opportunity to better utilise technology and connectivity when it comes to healthcare delivery and medical training,’ Minister Coulton said.
‘Location no longer needs to be a determinant of access to quality health services and care. We just need to take a fresh look to how we can support and deliver sustainable and modern health services.’
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A.Prof Christopher David Hogan   1/07/2020 9:35:01 PM

Nice to see some rapprochement between RACGP & ACRRM. It is quite timely as General Practice is rapidly collecting more enemies than friends at the moment.