In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, there is some good news for the community of Parkes.
Dr Lolitha Basnayake of Ochre Medical Centre in Clarinda Street is among 30 doctors that have been accepted into a training program that enables them to enhance their skills and expertise in general practice while remaining in their communities.
The Remote Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS) training model supports doctors, many of whom work as solo practitioners, to continue to serve their patients while upskilling.
"Our doctors are on the frontline of this pandemic and it's imperative that rural and remote communities have access to well-trained general practitioners, to provide the best possible patient care," RVTS CEO, Dr Patrick Giddings said.
Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, RVTS delivers vocational training for medical practitioners in remote and isolated communities, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Australia.
Dr Giddings said media reports have indicated non-metropolitan, rural and remote areas are at greater risk of COVID-19 than their city counterparts because their populations are typically older, with many having underlying and chronic health conditions.
"This is exacerbated by the fact that over eight million Australians, or almost one-third of the population who live in rural, regional and remote areas, do not have the same access to health services and health-related infrastructure," he said.
"GPs and other primary health care professionals are pivotal in the prevention, early detection and response to COVID-19 and ensuring that they are properly equipped to meet these challenges is critical."
Dr Basnayake has been working in Parkes for two years now and also provides his services at the Parkes Hospital.
Through the RVTS training program, Dr Basnayake and other doctors are able to access the latest evidence-based learning via intensive workshops, online training, teleconferences, regular interaction with experts in the field and practical workshops.
"In practical terms, our training model means that the doctors who train with us gain access to the latest advances in rural general practice without having to leave their patients and move to another centre," Dr Giddings said.
"This is especially important in enabling continuity of medical services and patient care in these challenging times.
"Now more than ever, rural and remote communities need to know that they can rely on the expertise of their local health care professionals.
"The training RVTS delivers is playing a significant role in our national response to this health crisis."
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