Understanding and responding to the cost and health impact of short-term health staffing in remote and rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health services: A mixed methods study protocol

Michelle S. Fitts, John Humphreys, Terry Dunbar, Lisa Bourke, Edward Mulholland, Steven Guthridge, Yuejen Zhao, Michael P. Jones, John Boffa, Mark Ramjan, Lorna Murakami-Gold, Annie Tangey, Clarissa Comerford, Rosalie Schultz, Narelle Campbell, Supriya Mathew, Zania Liddle, Deborah Russell, John Wakerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Access to high-quality primary healthcare is limited for remote residents in Australia. Increasingly, remote health services are reliant on short-term or € fly-in, fly-out/drive-in, drive-out' health workforce to deliver primary healthcare. A key strategy to achieving health service access equity, particularly evident in remote Australia, has been the development of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs). This study aims to generate new knowledge about (1) the impact of short-term staffing in remote and rural ACCHSs on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; (2) the potential mitigating effect of community control; and (3) effective, context-specific evidence-based retention strategies. Methods and analysis This paper describes a 3-year, mixed methods study involving 12 ACCHSs across three states. The methods are situated within an evidence-based programme logic framework for rural and remote primary healthcare services. Quantitative data will be used to describe staffing stability and turnover, with multiple regression analyses to determine associations between independent variables (population size, geographical remoteness, resident staff turnover and socioeconomic status) and dependent variables related to patient care, service cost, quality and effectiveness. Qualitative assessment will include interviews and focus groups with clinical staff, clinic users, regionally-based retrieval staff and representatives of jurisdictional peak bodies for the ACCHS sector, to understand the impact of short-term staff on quality and continuity of patient care, as well as satisfaction and acceptability of services. Ethics and dissemination The study has ethics approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Northern Territory Department of Health and Menzies School of Health Research (project number DR03171), Central Australian Human Research Ethics Committee (CA-19-3493), Western Australian Aboriginal Health Ethics Committee (WAAHEC-938) and Far North Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC/2019/QCH/56393). Results will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journals, the project steering committee and community/stakeholder engagement activities to be determined by each ACCHS.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere043902
Number of pages11
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021


  • health economics
  • health policy
  • primary care
  • quality in health care

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