WHO WE ARE
Health equality starts with communities
The Rural and Remote Medical Services Ltd (RARMS) was established in 2001 as a not-for-profit charity by the NSW Rural Doctors Network in response to the ongoing rural doctor crisis that was threatening many rural and remote communities with the loss of local health services.
RARMS works with local rural, remote and Indigenous communities to support them to understand their health needs, develop place-based plans and in some cases establish and operate health and medical practices in partner towns through our RARMS Health community service arm.
We raise money and support from businesses and the community to help us to ensure that rural, remote and Indigenous communities have a say in their own health futures, and equip them with the tools to engage with the community in a shared mission to address the social determinants of health.
Through RARMS Health, we establish not for profit medical practices staffed by local resident GPs and health staff in towns that need 24/7 on-the-ground GP care. RARMS Health helps communities by acquiring premises, employing nurses and health staff, buying the equipment and stores and then recruiting doctors on behalf of the community.
Doctor and health professional recruitment is managed through RARMS Medical Workforce and Telehealth Solutions.
RARMS Health does not employ doctors. Doctors working from RARMS Health-run practices operate their own independent medical business. We work to make it as easy as possible for doctors to work in rural and remote communities to increase access to local health care in vulnerable communities.
RARMS is the most successful charity in Australia in establishing and keeping local resident medical and health practices operating in rural and remote communities over the last 20 years. We are the largest resident GP service supplier in rural and remote NSW. Our doctors and staff live in rural and remote communities, building a deep understanding of the needs of the community and growing the relationships necessary for successful health improvement.
Over this time we have successfully established practices in numerous rural, remote and Indigenous communities and in some cases have been able to hand over the medical service to a doctor we have recruited.
As a charity, we do not receive any special funding from government to support this work. Instead, we seek support from the community and business and from fee income through our RARMS Medical Workforce and Telehealth services division.
We direct all our surpluses into our charitable reserves for investment directly back into our communities, the expansion of health services and where possible to contract Locums (short term doctor) to cover periods when there are no permanent doctors due to shortages.
We believe that all Australians have a fundamental right to access high quality primary care, regardless of where they live.
We believe that Universal Health Coverage is a fundamental human right.
In Australia, the quality of your health and the length of your life depends largely on where you live. If you live in a rural and remote community you are more likely to have poorer health and could die up to 11 years earlier compared to people who live in the city. A significant contributor to health inequality in Australia is lack of access to local GP and primary health services in remote and Indigenous communities.
Australians generally believe that rural and remote people get a 'raw deal'. According to the ABC Australia Talks Survey, 2 in 3 Australians believe that rural people are treated unfairly. While this view is most strongly held among rural Australians (80 percent), it is also supported by a majority of metropolitan Australians ( 57 percent of Inner Metropolitan Australians and 60 percent of Outer Metropolitan Australians).
We believe that the key to addressing health inequality in Australia is ensuring that all Australians, regardless of where they live, have access to a local GP and primary care service including mothers and babies, young adults, farmers, the elderly, Indigenous Australians and people with chronic diseases and disabilities.
At RARMS we do not believe that health inequality is a fact of life, and working together we have proven that we can get doctors and nurses to work in rural and remote communities with the right programs and support. That is why we work tirelessly every day to help communities take control of their own destinies by helping them to retain and build sustainable their own local GP-led health services.
Two out of every three Australians believe that rural and remote people get a 'raw deal'.
We work in partnership with local rural and remote communities, Indigenous people and organisations, other NGOs and government to help communities at risk of losing their local GP and primary care services to understand their health needs, establish and run local medical practices and recruit doctors. Our ultimate goal is to hand over a strong, viable and rewarding local medical practice to a new GP that is committed to the living and working in the community.
The 'Easy Entry, Gracious Exit' model developed by the NSW Rural Doctors Network, and implemented by Rural and Remote Medical Services Ltd, has proven to be the most successful model in Australia for sustaining and growing rural and remote medical services. To read the independent research on the RARMS 'Easy Entry, Gracious Entry' model click here.
Over the last 20 years, we have expanded to 10 practice locations, and have handed over practices in Harden, Gulgong and Condobolin to new GPs who have decided to locate to these communities to live and work. We plan to hand over even more over the next 2 years.
We have lifted the number of Medicare services delivered per person in our towns, expanded services to more than 25,000 people and provide 24/7 local services to a vast track of outback NSW.
As a non-government organisation and charity whose staff live and work in remote communities, we have the flexibility and independence to work collaboratively with communities, government agencies, businesses, individuals and other not-for-profit charities.
We believe that we need to start listening to our communities to find solutions.
As more and more rural GPs approach retirement, and fewer medical graduates choose rural practice, a growing number of rural and remote towns face losing their local medical services completely in the next few years. Many already have.
To ensure we can continue to provide the maximum level of health and medical coverage possible in the future, RARMS is making better use of technology to reduce costs and improve access. The RARMS Remote GP Service has been designed to support our local permanent rural GPs by providing them with a back up when they are sick, need to take a break and during vacancies. RARMS is committed to using its Remote GP Service to support local doctor recruitment and retention, not replacing local rural doctors.
RARMS has proven that it is possible to recruit and retain GPs and VMOs in small rural and remote communities. This successful model should be replicated in more towns across rural and remote Australia with your support.
Over the next year, RARMS aims to work with rural, remote and Indigenous communities to highlight the rural doctor shortages. We plan to work with more communities to develop needs assessments, and to support communities to develop Place-Based Health Plans so that they can advocate for their health futures.