Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
RESEARCH ARTICLE

How do rural GPs’ workloads and work activities differ with community size compared with metropolitan practice?

Matthew R. McGrail A E , John S. Humphreys B , Catherine M. Joyce C , Anthony Scott D and Guyonne Kalb D

A School of Rural Health and Gippsland Medical School, Monash University, Gippsland Medical School, Northways Road, Churchill, Vic. 3842, Australia.

B School of Rural Health, Monash University, PO Box 666, Bendigo, Vic. 3552, Australia.

C Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Monash University, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Vic. 3004, Australia.

D Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne, Alan Gilbert Building, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: matthew.mcgrail@monash.edu

Australian Journal of Primary Health 18(3) 228-233 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/PY11063
Submitted: 3 June 2011  Accepted: 22 August 2011   Published: 23 November 2011

Abstract

Rural communities continue to experience shortages of doctors, placing increased work demands on the existing rural medical workforce. This paper investigates patterns of geographical variation in the workload and work activities of GPs by community size. Our data comes from wave 1 of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life longitudinal study, a national study of Australian doctors. Self-reported hours worked per usual week across eight workplace settings and on-call/ after-hours workload per usual week were analysed against seven community size categories. Our results showed that a GP’s total hours worked per week consistently increases as community size decreases, ranging from 38.6 up to 45.6 h in small communities, with most differences attributable to work activities of rural GPs in public hospitals. Higher on-call workload is also significantly associated with smaller rural communities, with the likelihood of GPs attending more than one callout per week ranging from 9% for metropolitan GPs up to 48–58% in small rural communities. Our study is the first to separate hours worked into different work activities whilst adjusting for community size and demographics, providing significantly greater insight to the increased hours worked, more diverse activities and significant after-hours demands experienced by current rural GPs.


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