Outreach Clinic Model


Dr Sadheesh Rathnayake, Townsville QLD
Karumba Health Clinic, Karumba, North Queensland

Dr Sadheesh Rathnayake

Summary

Townsville GP Dr Sadheesh Rathnayake and his team provide general practice and health services to rural and remote towns that do not have enough residents to support a doctor.
 

They travel to Karumba in Far North Queensland twice a month, bringing psychology, podiatry, physiotherapy, exercise physiology, and skin cancer treatments and clinicians to meet local health needs.

Challenge

With a population of 531, there are not enough residents to support a permanent doctor in Karumba, Queensland but the town needs access to general practice and additional health services. 

The closest small regional hospital is an hour away in Normanton. Critical trauma patients must travel even further to Mt Isa, Cairns or Townsville to access larger hospitals. 

Some residents were worried about continuity of care confirming they had never seen the same doctor twice before a regular outreach clinic was established.

Practice model

Dr Rathnayake’s team travel to Karumba twice a month from Townsville to provide general practice and health services via an outreach clinic run at the Karumba Health Clinic. 

They come as a team of two doctors and two allied health professionals - bringing psychology, podiatry, physiotherapy, exercise physiology, skin cancer treatments according to local need. The GPs identify the care required to meet patient need in the community and run a two day clinic with an overnight stay in Karumba. 

The Karumba Health Clinic is accredited for a full-time nurse practitioner. With a dedicated GP service and regular doctors this helps ensure continuity of care. The team is regularly in touch with the nurse practitioner to implement ongoing management for patients and uses telehealth to follow up directly with patients. 

The Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF) provides the funding to allow Dr Rathnayake’s team to provide these outreach clinics. RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements pioneered this service which now offers outreach clinics in Karumba, Normanton, Doomadgee, Mornington Island, McKinlay and Gregory Downs in Queensland.

The benefits

  • Improved access to community care 
  • The opportunity to give back and establish community connections with patients
  • The opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and practice real medicine with no direct access to specialists or a large team
  • A transfer of specialised skills to help equip the local health workforce with the skills to manage ongoing patient care 
  • A taste of a career in rural general practice for GPs, registrars and students with invaluable exposure to rural medicine.

Top tip

With this type of model, consider funding agency information and ideas for mixed funding models. Every state or territory has a different agency that administers rural outreach funds. Visit the Department of Health website for more information.