The Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) was established in 2008 and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under The Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme: Stronger Futures Northern Territory to “address persistent challenges to accessing primary healthcare services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait people in the Northern Territory”.
RAHC was set up to “… recruit, culturally orientate and deploy health professionals to enable the provision of increased primary health care services to assist in addressing the shortfall in health service delivery in remote Indigenous NT communities” with a “focus on recruiting urban-based health professionals”.
In summary, RAHC is a program designed to increase the pool of urban-based health professionals available for work in Indigenous communities by attracting, recruiting and orienting them and then providing ongoing support and training to successfully assist the health professional to make the transition to remote practice.
Over time RAHC has developed a steadily increasing pool of highly motivated, effective, culturally sensitive and clinically competent health professionals (HPs) who are keen to undertake regular placements in the Northern Territory (NT). The remote workforce in the NT is significantly strengthened through RAHC’s existence and many health centres and programs now depend on RAHC to supply their staffing needs to supplement permanent staff. It has mobilised urban based health professionals and developed an alternative workforce for remote settings as opposed to just redistributing it from other remote or rural settings.
RAHC has placed over 800 HPs in more than 3,400 placements since its first placement in December 2008. This represents over 300 man years of healthcare to the Territory. RAHC has experienced continued growth in demand for its services. Each year the actual number of placements has met or exceeded the contracted maximum under the funding agreement.
RAHC works very closely with its stakeholders – Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Northern Territory Government Department of Health and Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS’s) to maintain the delivery of an appropriate and responsive program.
There are a number of key ‘points of difference’ that have driven the success of the program including:
Strong relationships in the Northern Territory
Rigorous credentialing of health professionals (HP)
High levels of service and support for the HPs including a Remote Educator for ‘new to remote’ HPs
Reduced administrative burden for health services to deliver the timely payment of wages to HPs.