It is one of the great ironies that people who shift from the city to the country to enjoy the quiet and space of fewer people, end up complaining about the lack of services. Lots of services follow large communities around, it is the way the world works. Healthcare is, probably, the hottest button at the moment, for country folk to voice their concerns about. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. All that country living is supposed to keep you healthy: fresh air, good produce, and all those friendly animals. Why do they need doctors as well? Just joking folks, but you cannot expect to have the range of healthcare services as the millions of people who live in the cities.
The Great Debate: Healthcare In The Countryside
Medicine may be socialised to some extent in Australia with Medicare, but doctors, and dentists, especially, in private practice are running businesses. Supply follows demand; its economics 101 folks. You cannot force doctors and dentists to live and work in small country towns. Their businesses have high overheads and they need substantial revenue streams to make them at all sustainable. Health care extras are predicated on the necessary populations driving private enterprise medicine. Dental care is, even more, dependent upon large enough communities to justify the existence of a dental clinic.
Country people, unfortunately, just have to travel to larger rural centres for many basic healthcare services. The only way to change this economic fact, would be to socialise healthcare all the way down the supply chain in regional areas. Governments would have to get into the doctoring and dentistry businesses in small country towns. Good luck with that. Governments don’t like to be too accountable; and they avoid getting involved in any real businesses on this basis. Profit and loss sheets are for other people.
The AMA are calling for governments to rebuild public hospitals in rural areas and incentivise the recruitment and retention of country doctors. A good idea would be to build training hospitals in larger regional zones. If Australians want to become doctors and healthcare professionals, then, direct them to these training hospitals for a fixed number of years. These hospitals could then have satellite clinics servicing smaller towns around them. A network of healthcare facilities could be run by state governments around the nation. In a big country, with low density issues in regional areas, government policy must address these challenges.