Worsening regional GP crisis putting people’s lives at risk, warns Centre Alliance

The widespread doctor shortage gripping regional South Australia is worsening and increasingly putting people’s lives at risk, Centre Alliance has warned.

Centre Alliance Candidate for Grey, Andrea Broadfoot, today called for an urgent review of incentives packages offered to GPs to work in remote areas to address the extreme doctor shortages experienced by communities in the electorate.

“What is it going to take before governments of all persuasions do something to fix this crucial and worsening crisis impacting regional South Australia – for a person to tragically die in circumstances that could have been prevented had a GP been available,” Andrea asked.

“This is a third world problem in a first world country – it’s a national disgrace,” she said.

“I have been contacted by numerous concerned people in regional communities across the electorate who are severely disadvantaged by the lack of available primary health care in their towns,” she said.

“They are telling me the situation is going from bad to worse – yet little or nothing is being done by governments to tackle the problem.

“It’s an absolute outrage – if this was happening in the metropolitan area you would have politicians from both the major parties all over it.

“Again, because it’s a problem in regional SA – in a Federal seat currently held by a Liberal MP in a Liberal Government who hasn’t made a whimper about it – it’s out of sight, out of mind.

“If I am able the win the seat over Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey at next month’s Federal election, addressing this critical issue will be my paramount priority, along with my fellow Centre Alliance colleagues in the Senate.

“A vote for Centre Alliance is a vote for the best interests of all South Australians – not like our competitors who are forced to bow to their eastern states powerbrokers.”

Andrea said the central Eyre Peninsula town of Kimba has been without a GP for “a number of years” – despite the Council offering a range of incentives, including free rent of a fully-maintained medical practice; Cowell has a part time presence delivered out of Whyalla – but for only two evenings a week; and Port Augusta Hospital is struggling to staff its hospital with GPs due the uneven distribution of the workforce.

She said evidence showed that people have improved health outcomes when they have direct and regular access to GPs and primary health professionals in their communities.

Andrea is calling on the Federal Government to increase incentives for GPs working in rural and remote areas, and to also fund workforce development so that doctors and registrars are properly equipped to work in rural localities.

“GPs working in remote areas are – and need to be – valued and rewarded,” Andrea said.

“If we increase primary health care options in regional and remote areas, we reduce the reliance on more expensive specialist interventions because health issues can be identified and addressed early,” she said.

“The Medicare rebate for doctors working in Burnside is the same as for GPs working in Cummins – it just doesn’t make sense.

“There are plenty of GPs in places where it is more accessible and attractive to live like Port Lincoln and Clare.

“The role front line health professionals have in improving health outcomes through changing behavior of patients is demonstrated.

“When a doctor asks a patient why they are still smoking when they know the associated health risk, evidence shows smoking rates reduce by 16%. If people do not see a GP that question is not asked and smoking related illnesses can proliferate unchecked.

“There is an opportunity to create a properly trained workforce through the rural generalist pathway, which is working well in other states – but has been slow on the uptake in South Australia.

“Frozen Medicare rebates have fallen well below CPI driving the closure of rural practices and forcing GPs to leave regional areas.

“We need to build equity in the system with a review of the Monash model of Federal incentives where Port Lincoln and Kimba are both considered the same level of remoteness.

“The Rural Doctors Workforce Agency provides locum support for backing up doctors in rural practices, but we need to ensure GPs want to work in regional areas, so that we can address the severe shortage of doctors in regional and remote areas of Grey.

“I have had contact from constituents across the electorate who are travelling vase distances for basic medical care – yet they pay the same Medicare levy as people in the city!

“It is vital we have a level playing field to ensure access to GPs and primary health professionals is easy to access regardless of where choose to live.

“If elected, I am committed to working directly with stakeholders, medical peak bodies, health care professionals and community leaders to address this significant GP and primary health care shortage in Grey.”

/Centre Alliance Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.