The RFDS in VIC
Rural Women's GP service
RFDS Victoria delivers a Rural Women’s GP service to a number of small rural communities across Victoria, with the aim of providing a gender choice to all patients who would like to see a female GP.
The RWGP service is provided through funding from both the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria (RWAV) and donors. This service is 100% bulk billed, leaving the patients with no out-of-pocket expenses. The service is highly valued by both women and men in the communities we visit.
The clinics are run every six to eight weeks and are hosted in partnership with a local GP clinic in the area. Currently the service is run in Robinvale, Yarram, Hopetoun, Charlton, Harrow and Ouyen. Two additional clinics have also been added at the Murray Valley Aboriginal Co-Op and Robinvale District Health Service. The service sees on average more than 1000 patients per year.
Why this service is so important
People who live in rural areas in Australia tend to have shorter lives, higher levels of illness and higher risk factors for disease, compared to people who live in metropolitan areas.
In small rural communities across Victoria, typically there is only one local GP, most often male. Some patients prefer to consult with a female doctor for a range of health issues. This is significant when considering that 7 in 10 Victorian women who develop cervical cancer either never had a Pap test or did not have them regularly prior to diagnosis.
Refer to the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights for information about the rights of patients and other people using the Australian health system.
Most patients say that they would not travel the average 1.5 hours each way to access a female GP if the service was not available in their community, delaying preventive screening or treatment.
If patients accessing the Rural Women’s GP service in Charlton, Hopetoun and Robinvale were to travel to access a female GP, the cost would be $405.62 per patient, for one appointment.