Half of the patients who live in regional and remote areas have to wait more than 24 hours for an urgent appointment with their GP, as country Australia continues to face a long-running doctors shortage. And it's not easy to convince GPs to work outside major cities - with a recent survey showing 68 per cent of those in metropolitan areas would not move to regional or remote towns for work. But the University of Wollongong is hoping to help change this, thanks to a new federal government investment to boost rural doctors. As part of a $90 million investment to support rural medical students nationally, announced by Health Minister Mark Butler this week, the government is providing an additional 15 spots to UOW each year. The university has agreed to match and possibly exceed that number from its existing allocation of medical student places, with the students completing a "rural end-to-end program" where all studies are done in a rural or regional setting. ALSO READ: Almost a third of GPs plan to retire in next five years According to a recent survey by peak doctors body the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the main barriers for doctors moving away from metro areas are family reasons and concerns about social and professional isolation. GPs were also worried that their work life balance in busy country practices would be worse, and that there were insufficient resources outside the cities to support them. However, the survey also showed that regional and rural GPs reported higher job satisfaction, and were more likely to recommend being a GP as a career. Evidence also shows medical students who are placed for at least a year in country Australia are more likely to stay and practise there after they graduate. UOW's Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Student Life) Senior Professor Eileen McLaughlin said the medical program had a strong rural focus, with at least 56 per cent of its students having a rural background. "70 per cent of students completing a year-long rural clinical placement, in communities including Milton/Ulladulla, Forbes, Mudgee, Grafton, Lismore, Griffith, Broken Hill, and elsewhere," she said. "Seventy-two per cent of all UOW medicine graduates who have attained specialty registration have specialised as General Practitioners and 40 per cent of these work rurally." The government will also give $16.3 million to UOW to invest in rural infrastructure and staff. This will be used to increase medical classrooms, equipment, facilities and staffing for students in the end-to-end rural medical program. Vice Chancellor Professor Patricia Davidson said the funding would allow the university to expand and improve the quality of care given to patients in country hospitals and rural practices. "The UOW Graduate School of Medicine was set up to train doctors for rural, regional and remote areas, and was the first medical school in the country in which up to 70 per cent of students spend a full year of clinical education in a rural community," she said.