Palliative Medicine Institute needed to address care gaps for rural communities

Palliative Care Australia

People in rural Australia die earlier the further they live from major cities and yet they have less opportunity to receive specialist palliative care than their urban counterparts.

Leading national organisations are joining together this National Palliative Care Week (19-25 May 2024) to advocate for better access to end of life supports for rural and regional communities, with a 12-month review laying out the way forward.

Led by the Australia New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM), with support from the National Rural Health Alliance, and Palliative Care Australia, the ‘Beyond the Burbs’ scoping review has identified a number of opportunities for workforce training and growth.

“Palliative medicine in rural Australia is in crisis, the impact of which seems to be significantly under-appreciated,” said Dr Christine Sanderson, ANZSPM Councillor and RRIPM Clinical Lead.

“Over 7 million Australians, almost 30% of the population, live in rural communities. However, there are significant disparities in the kind of palliative care that is available in different geographic locations.

“One of the reasons for this is that only 16% of the specialist palliative medicine workforce live and work in rural and regional areas.

“We need to embed palliative care skills and values in rural and regional health services through locally based specialist training opportunities, that connect with locally based primary health and aged care networks.”

One of the key recommendations of ‘Beyond the Burbs’ is the establishment of a Rural and Remote Institute of Palliative Medicine (RRIPM) to oversee and support specific rural and regional training initiatives.

“It’s widely acknowledged in the health sector that to grow a rural workforce you need attractive rural career pathways” said Camilla Rowland, CEO, Palliative Care Australia.

“Metro-centric training leads to fewer rural specialists, we need to change that so that graduate doctors can grow their palliative care skills in the bush and build a meaningful career and life in rural and regional communities.”

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, the outcomes of the scoping review have been delivered to Minister Mark Butler, with an overview of the funding need to establish a Rural and Remote Institute of Palliative Medicine.

“This review also reinforces the need for a National Rural Health Strategy – to ensure appropriate healthcare for rural Australians from birth to death,” said Susi Tegen, Chief Executive, National Rural Health Alliance.

“Rural communities have a great history of fundraising to support locally based hospice and end of life care; government and health services need to step up and play their part in order to deliver on the palliative care needs of the future,” concluded Ms Tegen.

Beyond the Burbs: Specialist Palliative Medicine Training in Rural Australia – A scoping review is available to view and

/Public Release.