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Kingaroy played host to more than 180 rural medicos, nurses, allied health professionals and medical students on 13 and 14 March when the biennial Red Ant Round-up Medical Conference rolled into town.

The two-day conference—whose name pays homage to Kingaroy’s Indigenous roots (Kingaroy comes from the from the Wakka Wakka Aboriginal word Kingaroori, which means ‘red ant’)—is a Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN initiative and was first held in 2015.

The Round-up has its genesis in a desire to bring Queensland’s rural medical community together to share education, skills and support.

Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN CEO Merrilyn Strohfeldt said the Round-up was created to provide education opportunities for the rural and regional health workforce.

“Health care professionals who live and work in rural and regional areas often have to travel to metropolitan areas in order to access high quality education and training,” Ms Strohfeldt said.

“The Red Ant Round-up allows the PHN to provide this opportunity, while also bringing health professionals together to build stronger networks and ultimately generate better health outcomes for people living rurally.”

Attendance at this year’s Round-up broke records, with delegate numbers climbing to an all-time high.

“We had been anticipating a delegation of around 140 people,” GPTQ Project Manager and conference co-convenor Jill-Anne Wheeler said.

“But when that number ticked over and the registrations kept coming in we were both surprised and delighted,” she said.

“We love that this conference continues to grow. I also think the challenges of COVID have hit home just how valuable face-to-face interaction is: our delegates—old and new—couldn’t wait to come together and catch up.”

The learning program for Red Ant Round-up 2021 focused on cancer and was built around the theme ‘The BIG C: Detection, management and recovery’.

Experts from around the country were sourced to deliver conference sessions and workshops on everything from prostate cancer detection and treatment, and the latest developments in breast cancer management; through to detecting and removing suspicious skin lesions in a rural setting and the use of medicinal cannabis in pain management.

The conference program is divided into two streams—one for GPs, and another for nurses and allied health professionals—ensuring that each topic of learning covered is tailored to the primary healthcare disciplines in attendance.

A showcase of the online clinical support tool HealthPathways presented by Toowoomba GP Dr Theresa Johnson and Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN General Practice Liaison Officer (GPLO) and Director of Tessellate Communication Louise Litchfield proved a program highlight.

HealthPathways provides GPs with access to up-to-date clinical information and a series of localised care pathways designed to help them link their patients with available medical specialists, hospitals and allied health services.

The central goal of the platform, which has been adapted from a successful model first trialed in New Zealand, is to improve patient experiences and achieve better health outcomes through greater collaboration between healthcare professionals in local communities.

Darling Downs HealthPathways was launched in June 2018.


Social interaction as important as the education

The Round-up’s social program is equally as important as the education and professional development opportunities the conference provides.

The gala dinner, along with chats over lunch and in the coffee breaks between learning sessions, provided delegates with a unique chance to share their experiences of rural life.

Beaudesert GP and GPTQ Associate Director of Medical Education Dr Mike Hurley is a regular at the Red Ant Round-up and said these conversations were enriching for all.

“Rurally based medical conferences such as this promote meeting, sharing stories, and creating strong networks between geographically separate health practitioners,” Dr Hurley said.

“After returning from one of these conferences I have a renewed passion for the work we are fortunate to do.”

This year Dr Hurley took the opportunity to host an impromptu Q&A session with a group of medical students who were delegates at the conference.

“More and more students, along with city-based GP registrars, are attending the Round-up as well as other rural medical conferences like the Goondiwindi Medical Muster to explore the idea of working in the bush,” he said.

“This is exciting because it is a great way for them to experience a weekend in a town like Kingaroy and while there they are meeting doctors and nurses working in rural communities and talking to them about what the work—and the lifestyle—is like.”


Kids program rounds out the Round-up

The Round-up is a conference designed to be family-friendly, Ms Wheeler explained.

“An education weekend is a big commitment to ask of rural health professionals, so we want to ensure this is a weekend the whole family can enjoy,” she said.

And from all reports the 2021 Red Ant Round-up Family Program did not disappoint.

Running alongside the two-stream education program, an Old McDonald’s Farm with a host of friendly farm animals was installed at the conference venue to entertain children and adults alike. There was also a lesson in snake bite first-aid and a series of fun and interactive visits from local fire brigade, ambulance and police staff.


GPTQ is a proud partner of the Red Ant Round-up Medical Conference.