State Rural Doctors' Associations (RDAs) were formed from 1987 onwards to safeguard the rural medical workforce as a provider of accessible high standard medical care for the rural population. It was realised that without a persistent political voice, rural medicine tends to be sacrificed to the needs of the metropolitan sector and that without its own political representation, rural medicine risks being undersold to the political process. Responsibility for rural medicine is shared separately by the Commonwealth (Community General Practice) and the States (Hospitals). Most rural doctors work in both sectors.The broad aims of RDAs are training appropriate for isolated practice, viable funding that encourages long stay, and support for medical families. RDAV and RDAA were formed in 1991, with RDAV auspicing RDAA until finances allowed the opening in Canberra. Later RDAV did the same for the ACRRM. RDAV maintains a strong medico-political role within the State and at the Federal level through the RDAA. It has a proud record of achievement. Members of RDAV include Victorian rural and regional doctors: specialist and generalist, public and private, procedural and non-procedural, Australian trained and overseas trained.
RDAV Mission Statement: "A not-for-profit organisation, The RDAV seeks, as part of the RDAA, to maintain and improve the health of rural residents, through association and representation of those doctors in Victorian rural towns and communities, with the specific purpose of fostering a workforce adequate to this task through lobbying for and on occasion providing, proper education, recruitment, retention and family support.”
Major Victorian achievements: 1991: Assistance in Establishment of Rural Medical Family Network. 1991: Preservation of rural paediatric hospital admissions. 1992 on: Establishment of Victorian Rural Divisions Coordinating Unit and the Coordinating Unit for Health Education in Victoria. 1996: RDAV VMO indemnity package for rural VMOs (VMIA RGPP). 2002: Prevention of North-East rural Hospital closure program. 2004 onwards: major expansion of procedural training posts. 1999: Hospital On-call allowance. 2006: major upgrade to On-Call allowance system. 2010 on (after 6 years’ negotiations): establishment of Rural Generalist Training.
Major aim: establishment of State Package for rural Visiting Medical Officers working in Victorian Rural Hospitals with recognition of dedicated rural training and procedural capability.
In Victoria, RDAV keeps rural medical issues in the public eye by constant contact with press and radio, as well as provision of advice and ad hoc representation to Government and Minister directly and through working groups. It also meets with other peak rural groups such as the CWA and VFF, with whom it issued a consensus statement in 2006. RDAV has guided VMIA in developing the rural GP medical indemnity program since 1996.
RDAV, together with other States and the NT, provides representatives, observers and funding to the RDAA, which is a Federal organisation. The RDAA operates as a peak medical body for rural medical matters and maintains routine liaison with the Federal Ministry and Department. RDAA maintains a high media profile to ensure Federal Government interest in rural medical matters. Many private general practice issues are addressed on a national level through liaison with the Federal Minister for Health, and the Department of Health and Ageing. Importantly, RDAA represents rural doctors at a raft of national meetings groups and forums, helping to ensure that rural medical issues get specific attention and are not overrun by non-rural interests. RDAA has been prominent in the operation of United General Practice Australia.
It is recognised that important functions must remain at the State level, but the fact remains that many of the best achievements have been at the National level. Some functions have been centralised to the Federal RDAA Office.