"Rural Family Medicine – looking to the future”. 12th EURIPA Rural Health Forum

The 12th EURIPA Rural Health Forum was held in Călimănești-Căciulata, Romania, from 19th – 21st October 2023. The title of the conference was "Rural Family Medicine – looking to the future” and was organised under the patronage of the Romanian Society of Family Medicine/General Practice. Its president, Dina Mergeani, was the chair of the EURIPA Forum Organising Committee.

One hundred and twelve delegates from 21 European countries attended, 40 abstracts were presented and  published in the international indexed journal "Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine" (I.F.1.736), which also endorsed the event  https://advances.umw.edu.pl/en/abstract-book-2022-euripa.

The Forum took place in the splendid conference rooms of the hotel "Caciulata" in Calimanesti.

There were two parallel sessions which included oral presentations, workshops and posters.

In the opening ceremony we had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Oleg Kravchenko, EURIPA president; Dr. Gindrovel Dumitra, 12th EURIPA Rural Health Forum Scientific Committee co-chair; Prof. Dr. Alexandru Rafila, Romanian Ministry of Health; Prof. Dr. Cristian Gheonea, Pro-rector University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Craiova; Dr. Silvia Gatscher, Health Operations Manager of WHO Romania; Florinel Constantinescu, Mayor of Călimănești, Romania; and Dr. Ferdinando Petrazzuoli, 12th EURIPA Rural Health Forum Scientific Committee co-chair.

Oleg Kravtchenko, EURIPA President, chaired the traditional session of the Rural Café, this time the topic was: Lessons from COVID-19. How can we prepare for new pandemics? The rural perspective. In this session we had the pleasure to have a virtual dialogue with David Hogg (Scotland) and Anna Falk (Sweden), our distinguished panellists, who shared their views and thoughts, with the audience also actively participating in the Rural Cafe.

In the morning of the second day, Friday the 20th October, there was an early morning virtual link with Rural Medicine Australia 2023 taking place in Tasmania. The joint session between Rural WONCA and EURIPA focussed on Exploring pathways to rural practice.  Afterwards, in small groups, the delegates visited some family doctors' clinics in Călimănești and Berislăvești, a small village near Călimănești. 

On the afternoon of the same day professor Thomas Frese, president elect of WONCA Europe, and Dr Silvia Gatscher, Health Operations Manager of WHO, addressed the issue of the shortage of doctors in European rural primary care.

The Forum main topics addressed were: out of hours centres, young GP - why choose to become a GP/FM, retention of GP in rural area, research in rural area, rural medical education - early exposure of future physicians to rural practice, and emergency approach in rural areas. 

The other issues addressed in the forum ranged from the effects of COVID-19 on the organisation of general practice, to its effects on health personnel and on the general population, POCUS (Point of Care Ultrasound) to more traditional issues such as the management of arterial hypertension, atrial fibrillation and cardiovascular risk, HPV vaccination, e-prescription, always with an emphasis on the rural setting. Obviously, very hot topics in Romania were also dealt with, such as the growing scarcity of general practitioners in rural areas.

During the Forum EURIPA also held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) when a new member of the Executive Board was elected - Miriam Dolan from Northern Ireland, and Ferdinando Petrazzuoli was elected as the new president-elect of EURIPA. Following the AGM, EURIPA was privileged to hear a presentation by Patricia Martinez Saez, from the EU Commission DG Agri, who explained about the Rural PACT. 

The Forum was a success in terms of both participation and scientific content.  Key messages included the challenges for the rural health workforce and how EURIPA can help to influence change.  The factor that bound everyone together was that they were all rural.  It is clear, however, that rurality varies across Europe and also within countries. The diversity of health systems and how to develop strategies to address rural issues continues to be a priority for EURIPA.

The Forum ended with a presentation to announce that next year’s 13th EURIPA Rural Health Forum will be held in the University of Lincoln in Lincoln, UK from 20th - 22nd June 2024. The Forum will explore how to tackle health inequalities in rural and remote communities.