Potential new interns to the region toured Mackay Base Hospital on From left: University of Queensland students Marianna Boscariol and Cameron Ventura, and international graduate Tamanna Tasrin.
Potential new interns to the region toured Mackay Base Hospital on From left: University of Queensland students Marianna Boscariol and Cameron Ventura, and international graduate Tamanna Tasrin. Emma Murray

Backpacker's night out leads to rural medicine

AS BACKPACKERS in Airlie Beach enjoyed the nightlife, Cameron Ventura and his friends were going through a horrific ordeal.

A friend had suffered a cardiac arrest and, instead of dining by the marina, the group of travellers rushed to Prosperine Hospital to be by his side.

It was the catalyst for Mr Ventura's venture into rural medicine. "It was quite a scary experience for us because we didn't know what was happening," he said.

"Witnessing the way he was cared for there was quite inspiring ... I'd never really seen it in action like that."

Mr Ventura's friend recovered, but the encounter inspired him to explore rural medicine more thoroughly.

A previous job as a bike mechanic had taken him to Uganda, where he delivered bicycles. He developed a rapport with the communities he visited there and eventually arranged to undertake four medical electives in the African nation.

"There are a lot of similarities between the rural work you do in Australia and what you do in developing countries where there is not the capacity for specialist medical care," Mr Ventura said.

"You have to do whatever is presented in front of you, so you have to be skilled in all areas for whatever comes through the door."

Having been accepted into the Rural Generalist Pathway for 2020, Mr Ventura toured Mackay Base Hospital recently, along with more than 20 other medical students as part of a regional hospital tour.

Data compiled by demographer Bernard Salt for the Daily Mercury's Our Future Mackay campaign shows health is the second biggest employer behind mining. But the region has trouble retaining younger people in the region and attracting international students and graduates has been suggested as a possible solution.

Read more on Our Future Mackay here

Earlier this year, Mackay Base Hospital took on 45 new interns, a record for Mackay Hospital and Health Services.

During the hospital tour, clinical training director Dr Stephen Lambert said 75 per cent of last year's interns had also been retained.

"It (retention) is vitally important in terms of improving health outcomes - not just in Mackay but our surrounds as well," Dr Lambert said.

"We want people who want to be in a regional area ... we want people who are committed to making a difference in rural and regional Australia.

"There is a maldistribution of doctors in Australia - we have heaps in the capital cities but not enough here in Mackay - so it's of absolute importance we train people locally who want to stay here."

Dr Lambert said the hospital offered a more general training experience to equip doctors to the demands of rural practice and an emphasis on this allows young doctors to make an impact on regional Australian early in their career.

"The thing we stand out in is taking people's career preferences into account when we give them rotations," Dr Lambert said.

"I think something we struggle with in regional areas is we have a lot of patients but not enough doctors, so our doctors work really hard.

"The counter to that is they get a lot of experience."


Future Mackay dinkus
Future Mackay dinkus Contributed

Hailing from the small Canadian town of Nelson in British Columbia, Marianna Boscariol sees Mackay as a 'big city'.

Her hometown has a population of just over 10,000, and it was not until four years ago that she first stepped into her first large metropolitan region - Brisbane to study medicine at the University of Queensland.

Ms Boscariol said her experiences in a small town had inspired her to pursue rural medicine, and Mackay loomed as her preference upon the completion of her studies.

She said the exposure she would receive to Bowen and Proserpine by beginning her career in Mackay would develop her more thoroughly as a doctor.

"In my last two years I moved to the Sunshine Coast because, as international students, we don't really have the opportunity to do full-time rural medical placements," she said.

"The Sunshine Coast was sort of the closest I could get, and being based there I have found it a lot better with the close knit community."

Ms Boscariol was joined on the Mackay Base Hospital tour by Tamanna Tasrin.

Ms Tasrin, who relocated to Australia from Bangladesh two years ago, said the challenge and ability to interact with the community drew her into medicine.

She said the opportunity to engage more intimately with the community was a factor in thinking about regional areas for her first hospital experience.

"At the start we thought instead of regional areas we should move back to the city, but now I really love regional areas," she said.

"People are very communicable - ... in the big city people don't smile to each other, but here I can talk to anyone."