Preparing for the challenge of an ageing population

AFTER the Queensland Government brushed off claims doctors would soon flee regional areas over the doctor contract crisis, its leader has detailed how difficult it could be placing doctors outside the south-east corner in response to question on notice about aged care.

Premier Campbell Newman said perceived difficulties with career advancement and work-lifestyle balance for families were the main reasons it was difficult to recruit and keep staff in regional Queensland.

Palmer United Party MP Carl Judge had asked the Premier what steps he was taking to prepare for the challenge of an ageing population, especially in securing and training doctors, after quoting statistics showing a 32.1% jump in 65-69 year olds between 2007 and 2012.

The government's Blueprint for Better Healthcare in Queensland report revealed the state's population is set to increase to 6.1 million people by 2026 and that 1.1 million of these people will be aged 65 and over.

Mr Newman said, in his response tabled in Queensland Parliament on Monday, that his government was ensuring the state's ageing population had access to increased health and aged care services across regional centres through an initiative targeting junior medicos looking for valuable hands-on experience.

He said while aged care support was a federal responsibility, his government was one of the last remaining to still run residential aged care services - about 95%.

"The medical workforce is largely centred in the south east corner of Queensland," he said.

"Historically, recruitment and retention in regional and rural areas has been more difficult compared to metropolitan areas.

"To address this imbalance, the government is involved in a range of medical workforce initiatives such as the state-wide vocational training pathways, including the Basic Physician Training Pathway and the General Medicine Advanced Training Pathway."

Mr Newman said the pathways provided a mechanism for coordinating training placements and supported a more equitable distribution of the junior medical workforce.

"The pathways enable trainees in regional Queensland to access speciality training placements in large tertiary hospitals to complete training requirements and to access educational and training sessions via videoconferencing," he said.

"Queensland has had a significant growth in domestic medical graduates in recent years, increasing from 280 in 2005 to 705 in 2014, and is projected to grow to 737 in 2017.

"The government has committed to guarantee an offer of internship to all domestic medical graduates of Queensland universities."

The Australian Medical Association Queensland was contacted for comment but their spokesperson was unavailable.

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