Rural health leader Dr Paul Collett retires after decades of service


The Board and staff of Rural and Remote Medical Services Ltd (RARMS) gave its thanks to passionate rural GP and one of the founders of RARMS, Dr Paul Collett, in Orange on Thursday.


Dr Paul Collett was a general practitioner with over 35 years’ experience in rural, remote and Indigenous general practice.


He had an integral role in the formation of the peak body for rural doctors the NSW Rural Doctors Network in 1987 as well as the NSW Field Support Services, NSW Rural Divisions Coordinating Unit and General Practice NSW.


Paul was a co-founder of the National Rural Health Satellite Network and the Rural Health Education Foundation.


He has served on numerous Government and Ministerial Committees, on Boards and as Chair of NSW Outback Division of General Practice and Far West NSW Medicare Local.


In 2000 he alongside Dr Ian Cameron and Dr Vlad Matic were involved in the establishment and development of Rural and Remote Medical Services Ltd (RARMS) as a charity to support remote and rural communities to operate and sustain local primary health care and general practices in some of the most 'difficult to staff' towns in Australia.


Since its establishment in 2001, RARMS has successfully maintained health and hospital services for over 22,000 people who would otherwise have gone without across numerous communities. Paul subsequently became RARMS' Medical Advisor until his retirement.


"Paul was not the sort of rural doctor who spent his times on committees coming up with grand schemes that appealed to government, but did little to alleviate the problems with health access in rural and remote communities" said Mark Burdack, CEO of RARMS.


"He was an authentic remote doctor, working in places like Walgett for years to ensure disadvantaged communities had access to health and medical care.


"This gave his voice a rare breath of authenticity in his advocacy for remote and Indigenous communities because he walked the walk, so he could talk the talk.


"I think if you look at initiatives like RARMS, which has ensured 24/7 access to health and medical care in communities that everyone said could not sustain healthcare, you see the difference that can be made by listening to rural people and coming up with solutions that will work.


"RARMS was not just a successful provider of rural and remote health services, guaranteeing vulnerable communities 24/7 access to health and hospital care. It is also an advocate for these communities.


"I think this is one of the important legacies that Paul will leave alongside his exceptional medical skills and commitment to practical solutions. He was at the forefront of bringing to the attention of policy makers and politicians the consequences of their decisions and helping to guide them to listen to rural people and co-design solutions.


"Success as they say has many parents, but the success of RARMS in ensuring 20 years of health care in towns that everyone said could not sustain medical services came down to rural medical pioneers like Dr Ian Cameron, Dr Vlad Matic, Dr Paul Collett and the local communities they engaged with to co-design solutions that worked" said Mr Burdack.


Dr Paul Collett was farewelled at a function held on Orange on Thursday on the same day that the NSW Government announced it was withdrawing its 20 years of support for RARMS to deliver health and hospital care in remote NSW.