When it comes to health, rural and regional Australians face barriers to equity, access and inclusion. Add a pandemic to the mix and resources, along with resilience, are stretched to the limit.
Researchers in the La Trobe Rural Health School at La Trobe University are exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rural and regional healthcare workforce in Victoria’s Loddon Mallee region.
“The rural and regional health workforce confronts a different set of challenges to their metropolitan counterparts,” explains lead researcher, Associate Professor Mark McEvoy.
“Capacity and specialisation deficits mean that there are less resources to meet business-as-usual healthcare, let alone public health emergencies like the pandemic. This situation is compounded by additional environmental adversities, such as drought or bushfire.”
The study will provide an unprecedented exploration of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rural and regional healthcare workforce.
The focus, McEvoy explains, will be on health and wellbeing, including the physical and emotional wellbeing of workers, their quality of life, cognitive and social function, and lifestyle.
It will identify the resilience strategies – at the individual, organisational and community level – that lead to better physical and mental health outcomes for healthcare workers.
“This research will provide an evidence base on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and wellbeing of the rural and regional healthcare workers,” says McEvoy.
“We hope our findings will lead to the development of resilience interventions and policy that will improve the rural and regional response to future public health emergencies.”
Researchers are still recruiting healthcare workers from the Loddon Mallee region to participate in the study. This study has been supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. Find out more.