Medical student Nicholas Vitko

Dr Jane Barker explains the value of local GP placements for advanced-level medical students

When I first heard of the long-term student placements in general practice I wondered if and how they fitted into medical training. Longitudinal integrated clerkships, LICs for short, have now been proven to be effective learning environments for later-stage medical training.

The University Centre for Rural Health/North Coast (UCRH) has hosted students from Wollongong for the past 7 1/2 years, more than 150 students in all. Each of them has been allocated to a general practice in our area for two days a week for 38 weeks. In this four-year postgraduate program, this is effectively an eighth of their medical training.

For me the exciting part is that LICs claim what we have all known: that general practice can be a fertile learning environment, not only to teach Community Medicine but Medicine in general, that large teaching hospitals are not essential for all medical training and that there are aspects of medicine which are best learned in a general practice environment.

Dr Sue Page, young artist Connor Hardy from Ballina’s River Street Children’s Centre, and Ballina Mayor, David Wright.

Simply put, the artworks that now line the corridor of the rehabilitation and transitional care unit at Ballina District Hospital “give patients a good reason to get out of bed and take walks.”

The words came from well-known local GP, Sue Page, who was representing the Board of the Northern NSW Local Health District at the opening of the latest stage of exhibited works done by all nine pre-schools and kindergartens in the Shire.

Stages 1 and 2 feature works by Ballina’s primary and high schools, public and private, and have a similar focus on environmental features of the area - the sea, bird and wildlife, agriculture, the hills, and the built landscape, including the Big Prawn.

Photos: Courtesy of Brad Mustow, Lismore

Once confined to the homophobic closet, the gathering of like-minded souls and sexualities known as the Tropical Fruits is now being hailed as one of the Northern Rivers’ major festivals, and a major earner for local businesses at a usually quiet time for host city Lismore.

The now-annual Tropical Fruits festival, which peaks with a glitzy all-night party on New Year’s eve, is not only out in the open but being welcomed by Lismore City Council, and much of the local citizenry.

It has even begun to put Lismore on the national and international lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/intersex map, attracting an estimated 5,000 participants, half of them from elsewhere. The financial trickle-down to the local economy from the 2015-16 events was put at around $5 million.

The highlights were a colorful street parade through Lismore, with Mayor Jenny Dowell perched in one of the classic cars, an opening event at the NORPA-managed City Hall, and sold-out performances by Scottish actor-raconteur-gay activist Alan Cumming

Although the national bulk-billing rate for GP attendances now stands at 84.6%, around 5 per cent of Australians say that financial pressures meant postponing or delaying seeking care. Moreover, 7.6 per cent of respondents delayed or did not purchase prescribed medicines due to cost.

Around 64 per cent of those who did visit one of the nation’s 33,275 GPs reported waiting less than four hours for urgent care, while 11.1 per cent waited up to 24 hours, and 25 per cent waited longer.

Overall, 20.8 per cent of people who saw a GP for any reason waited longer than they felt was acceptable to get an appointment.

The government has updated the My Health Record FAQs for individuals, healthcare providers and contracted service providers. The information is more detailed than the versions released under the PCEHR, as it was previously known. 

Registration with the My Health Record system is straightforward using GP medical software and the upload process has been streamlined. 

These improvements coincide with the government's push to increase uploads to the PCEHR by tying eHealth Practice Incentive Payments to a minimum number of uploads. Many in the profession have had reservations about the effectiveness and utility of these incentives