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Rural and Remote Medical Services Ltd (RARMS) has signed a Letter of Intent for a new primary health care partnership with The Australian National University’s Rural Clinical School, which is part of the ANU Medical School.

RARMS CEO, Mark Burdack, said: “We are excited about the opportunity to work with Australia’s highest globally ranked teaching and research university to share knowledge and further improve how we support rural, remote and Indigenous communities in providing primary health care”.

The new partnership will grow the rural, remote and Indigenous GP workforce and improve health outcomes for rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

The new partnership will see Indigenous medical students undertake an extended 6 week training placements in remote communities such as Bourke, Brewarrina, Collarenebri, Lightning Ridge and Walgett.

The arrangement complements existing rural medical student placement arrangements with the University of Sydney, and plans to provide students from the new Charles Sturt University Medical School in Orange with long-term GP training in remote and Indigenous communities.

RARMS also works with the University of Newcastle to support rural nursing placements, and is currently finalising discussions to expand allied health.

The agreement between RARMS and ANU will drive collaboration in the development of our rural, remote and Indigenous medical workforce across a number of key areas, including:

  • providing ANU medical students with clinical and medical training at RARMS practices in rural and remote communities;

  • supporting population health and biomedical research with a focus on rural and remote communities;

  • collaborating in the development of rural, remote and Indigenous health policy, and;

  • promoting rural health and medical careers to young people in rural and remote NSW.

Mark Burdack said:

“RARMS has been successfully providing primary health and hospital care in some of Australia’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities for 20 years. 

“Over this time we have built up a significant expertise in how to sustain and grow rural primary and secondary care in Australia and attract doctors to these communities. 

“RARMS is not only the largest charitable provider of health and medical services in rural and remote NSW serving more than 22,000 patients, but also a major contributor to the training of future rural medical and health graduates for rural and remote practice.

“Without RARMS, not only would rural and remote communities lose their primary care and hospital services, but they would also lose the capacity to train medical and health students for future rural careers” said Mr Burdack.

Professor Amanda Barnard, Head of the Rural Clinical School and Associate Dean, Rural and Indigenous Health, ANU Medical School said:

“Rural doctor shortages continue to impact on health service access in rural and remote communities leading to poorer health outcomes. 

“Most of the training of medical students occurs in major cities and regional centres, when the greatest need is in rural and remote communities. 

“This initiative will enable the Rural Clinical School at ANU to give medical students greater exposure to rural and remote practice with the aim of increasing attraction and retention.

“It is also an important opportunity to conduct research to explore future models of primary and secondary care in rural and remote communities.”

Under the new partnerships RARMS and ANU have commenced a research project exploring the importance of the GP VMO role in supporting high quality and safe care to rural, remote and Indigenous residents. 

Mr Burdack said: “There is an enormous amount of research about why primary care needs to be better supported in rural and remote communities. 

“However, there is very little research on what works and why it works. ANU will help to bring academic rigour to our focus on why rural and remote communities, like the ones in which RARMS works, have had stable primary and hospital services for 20 years while others have seen services close or decline.

“RARMS believes we need to focus less on the problems and more on the solutions if we are going to fix rural health and hospital care, and this partnership aims to help us to do so”.

PHOTO: Professor Amanda Barnard, Professor of Rural and Indigenous Health, ANU and Mark Burdack, CEO, RARMS

Mark Burdack is the CEO of RARMS and an Honorary Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Rural Health at La Trobe University. He was previously Executive Director of the Murray Darling Medical School initiative which delivered funding for new medical schools in Orange, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga and Shepparton. He led the rural dental school initiative that resulted in the new School of Dentistry in Orange where 70% of graduates go into rural or regional practice. RARMS is the largest charitable provider of primary care and hospital services in rural and remote NSW. Serving more than 22,000 patients in some of NSW’s most vulnerable communities, RARMS has ensured the continued provision of on-site GPs and hospital emergency departments for 20 years – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.



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