A Qualitative Analysis of the Retention and Recruitment of Rural General Practitioners in Australia
Australian estimates of the doctor-to-population ratios for the cities, regional and remote areas seem to exceed the 0.71:1,000 benchmark ratio of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. However, statistics are misleading because they do not account for the time and distance involved to see a doctor in the less densely populated rural and remote areas. This is a qualitative study of the problem of retention and recruitment of rural doctors. In 2006-08, 13 in-depth structured interviews were conducted to target the three main interest groups – Federal and State governments, professional associations and training institutions (medical schools and hospitals). We analyse the results within the framework of the public interest theory and the special interest theory. We found from the interviews that in the future, the provision of better financial and non-financial incentives tailored specifically to GPs working in the rural areas would be crucial to attracting and retaining more doctors in these areas. The conclusion is that the rich information that was analysed in this paper could only have been obtained from face-to-face in-depth interviews, and not from publicly accessible sources. Qualitative research is a useful complement to the traditional quantitative studies of economic issues and should be conducted more often in the future.
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