Emeritus Professor Paul Worley named Australia's first National Rural Health Commissioner

Rural health focus: Australia's first National Rural Health Commissioner Emeritus Professor Paul Worley with Federal Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie.
Rural health focus: Australia's first National Rural Health Commissioner Emeritus Professor Paul Worley with Federal Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie.

The development of pathways for rural doctors is the top priority for Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner. 

Federal Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie announced Emeritus Professor Paul Worley’s appointment as National Rural Health Commissioner at the Rural Medicine Australia Conference on October 21.

Professor Worley’s first priority will be to develop National Rural Generalist Pathways to provide training, recognition and appropriate remuneration for the complex demands on doctors working outside major cities.

The pathways will aim to address the shortage of doctors in the bush.

Doctors working as rural generalists have advanced training in areas such as anaesthetics and general surgery.

“While developing pathways for rural doctors is a top priority, the Commissioner will also consider the needs of the nursing, dental health, pharmacy, Indigenous health, mental health, midwifery, occupational therapy, physical therapy and allied health workforce in rural areas,” Dr Gillespie said.

Dr Gillespie said Professor Worley would be a determined, effective and passionate advocate for strengthening rural health outcomes across Australia.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with him to progress regional and rural health reform,” Dr Gillespie said.

He said the federal government was dedicated to improving access to health services for everyone who called regional, rural and remote Australia home.

“The appointment of our National Rural Health Commissioner is integral to achieving this outcome,” Dr Gillespie said.

Professor Worley has had a distinguished career in rural health, both as a practitioner and an academic.

As the Commissioner, Professor Worley will consult with a wide range of health professionals and stakeholders to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has strongly welcomed the appointment and commended the federal government on its continuing commitment in making the role a reality.

The association’s outgoing president, Dr Ewen McPhee, said Professor Worley’s wide-ranging career experience meant he closely understood the many elements of the rural healthcare system, from doctors and other health professionals in remote communities, to the universities and other institutions charged with training our future doctors, right through to federal and state health policy-makers.

“These perspectives will serve him well in arriving at a ‘meeting of minds’ of all rural health stakeholders as we work together to build the rural health workforce and improve access to healthcare services in the bush,” he said.

Dr McPhee said the RDAA very much looked forward to working with Professor Worley in his new role, particularly in progressing the development and implementation of the National Rural Generalist Pathway.

“RDAA has advocated strongly for this pathway for many years, given it has enormous potential to deliver more of the next generation of doctors with advanced skills to rural and remote communities,” he said.