20 Years of Passionate Service.
Rural and Remote Medical Services Ltd (RARMS) was established as a not-for-profit charity in 2001 by a group of passionate rural GPs and the Rural Doctors Network NSW (RDN).
RARMS works in some of the most socio-economically disadvantaged communities in Australia, and more than 25 percent of our patients are from Indigenous backgrounds.
RARMS was a response to the growing shortage of GPs in rural and remote communities which was contributing to higher rates of chronic disease, increased costs to the State from preventable hospitalisations and an unacceptable gap in life expectancy for rural, remote and Indigenous people compared to city residents.
Prior to the establishment of RARMS, the main approach to addressing rural doctor shortages was to offer incentives to keep GPs in rural and remote communities longer. But this approach was failing and had become very costly for local communities and was unsustainable.
The RARMS model was an entirely new way of keeping GP Clinics going in rural and remote communities.
Under the RARMS model, when a GP left a rural or remote town we made sure that the community did not lose the infrastructure, patient health records and skilled health staff while we found a new GP. Where possible, RARMS secures a short-term Locum GP while we found a new permanent doctor.
RARMS does not receive any special funding from government to support our work. We rely on the support of our communities, business and donors to support health equality for all Australians.
Within 2 years of taking responsibility for its first remote practices in Walgett and Lightning Ridge, RARMS tripled the number of local permanent GPs, increased the number of patient services by 69% and dramatically reduced hospital presentations by 80% by improving community health access.
By 2019, RARMS has increased the number of remote and rural practice locations to 10 and has delivered a significant increased in occasions of service per person.
RARMS is there to help communities to find a permanent GP and health workforce by helping communities to create a sustainable practice environment for the delivery of services. Since our formation, we have welcomed new doctors into the communities of Harden, Gulgong and Condobolin who have loved the community and practice so much they took over the running of the RARMS practice.
At RARMS, we are passionate about ensuring equity and access to critical health and medical care for Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents in rural and remote communities serving around 25,000 patients a year.
What makes RARMS different to other rural medical services is that RARMS doctors and staff live and work in disadvantaged rural and remote communities.
RARMS doesn't fly-in and fly-out, or drive-in and out - we establish clinics in rural and remote communities, and recruit doctors and staff who live and work in rural and remote community.
Our doctors and staff know their patients personally because they live in the community, and they are in the town providing 24 hour care, 7 days a week, at the clinic or for acute care at the hospital.
Without our local GP services the lives and health of rural and remote people will be put at risk. Rural and remote patients wouldn't have a local doctor staffing the local hospital if a pregnant mum goes into labour early; won't have a GP to provide services to the local aged care home which could be forced to close; and, wouldn't have doctors to treat patients with chronic diseases to keep them out of hospital in the cities.
Rural and remote people will be forced to wait for a remote clinic to receive primary care, rather than receiving the right care in the right place and at the right time. They would be forced to rely on a telehealth doctor in a call-centre somewhere who may have no experience or understanding of the needs and circumstances of rural and remote communities.
Without local GPs, rural and remote towns could lose one of the largest employers of local people further contributing to the factors that lead to poor health outcomes (low income and unemployment).
RARMS is an example of how our health system could work when there is a common commitment to patient-centred care.
For an account of the RARMS early experiences in Walgett and Lightning Ridge, download the Easy Entry, Gracious Exit booklet.