6 July 2021

Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty discusses the difficulties in recruiting senior medical staff with Nathalia Cobram Numurkah Health CEO Jacque Phillips.

Outreach, staffing issues are holding back Numurkah health care excellence: Quilty

Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty says regional Victorians deserve the best health services despite the difficulties of attracting staff.

Mr Quilty said during a visit to Numurkah’s District Health Service that recruiting medical and allied health staff in rural areas would always be challenging but vowed to look at solutions.

“The staff at NCN Health provide an excellent level of care to their communities, but there is only so much that can be done when outreach workers are replaced by tele-health models and you struggle to get suitably qualified staff because it’s rural and there’s a housing crisis out here,” Mr Quilty said.

“The issue of recruiting to senior rural positions has historically been a difficult one to resolve, but I believe a solution lies with providing more than just an attractive salary and a tree change.

“While a suitably qualified medical professional may find a large salary attractive, there is more to it than that: very often there will be a partner and children to consider, and while the role might be attractive, there’s the challenge of moving to a new place - if you can find a home at present.”

“I believe the Andrews Government can do more than throw money at the problem, the Health Minister needs to visit small towns like Numurkah and talk to the staff here, and hopefully gain a more complete understanding of the problem. Many of the things I am seeing out in regional Victoria are problems of the Labor Government’s making, if they care to acknowledge that fact.”

Mr Quilty said that while he held little hope of getting Health Minister Martin Foley out from his Melbourne office, he believed he could urge the Government to do more.

“Of course the Melbourne-based Andrews Government does not believe it needs to do anything except the bare minimum for regional Victoria, as long as the city voter base is kept happy, but I am determined to make a loud noise on behalf of regional Victoria,” Mr Quilty said.

“This is a beautiful region in the best-looking state in Australia, and I want to make sure the people who live here are not disadvantaged by their choice of where to call home.

“Regional Victorians deserve a health service which is every bit as good as those found in Fitzroy or Geelong and I intend to make it my business to push for a reassessment of recruiting to the regions.”

Nathalia Cobram Numurkah Health CEO Jacque Phillips echoed Mr Quilty’s observations, and offered some insights into pathways forward.

“One of our biggest challenges in rural health is workforce: attracting and retaining senior health professionals including specialist doctors, allied health professionals and specialist services,” Ms Phillips said.

“We would also like to be able to extend our ability to support more graduate nurses and clinical students. We recognise rural health provides the opportunity for candidates to explore diverse learning experiences in smaller healthcare settings; an excellent foundation for training and experience.

“Building our workforce would increase our ability to provide greater access and best quality care to the people of Nathalia, Cobram, Numurkah and beyond, these communities have a high profile of chronic disease and also an ageing population.

“We appreciate Mr Quilty taking the time to visit our health service, we are confident his visit will help raise the profile of NCN Health and demonstrate the vital role rural health plays in building strong and vibrant communities.”