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Still no rural doctor solution

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Chris Oldfield, Naracoorte Community News

A proposal developed last March to help solve SA’s escalating rural doctor crisis appears not to have been passed on to the State Health Minister, Stephen Wade.

He made the revelation while visiting Naracoorte last week to view progress on $3.1 million in capital works at the hospital.

Additionally, a representative of Kincraig Medical Clinic confirmed that its local doctors were not notified of the Minister’s visit.

Nor was the Limestone Coast SA Rural Doctors Association and Australian Medical Association SA representative, Dr Brian Norcock, alerted to the visit by health bureaucrats.

In his role with the two associations, Dr Norcock was involved in preparing a solution to the Statewide rural doctor crisis, which continues to deepen throughout country SA.

That solution was delivered to health bureaucrats five months ago and involved a training package for rural doctors as well as indemnity and remuneration.

Sitting under a tree between the Naracoorte hospital – with no doctor on duty – and the Kincraig clinic, Mr Wade described pathways which the Government was involved with to help train rural doctors.

The Minister was asked by The News if he was able to put a solution developed by the rural doctors in place “just for a couple of months to see how it works”.

Mr Wade replied: “I’m not aware of the rural doctors providing any proposals.

“The Government negotiators have put two statements, have put in two offers.

“But I’m not aware of any proposals that the rural doctors have put forward in response to those two offers.”

Mr Wade also dismissed Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton’s pledge to pump $100 million into rural health and ambulance services if Labor, in six month wins the State election.

As previously in The News, Mr Picton described the health disaster unfolding in country areas, including Naracoorte, and the difficulty of finding locums in rural and regional areas.

“The Government is not listening to rural and regional doctors about the issues they are facing and the conditions which they need in place to attract and retain additional regional doctors,” Mr Picton said.

“They (doctors) have put a package to the Government, and that has been ignored outright.

“We now have both the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and Rural Doctors Association SA (RDASA) saying things are going to get worse, we are going to lose more doctors and that is going to impact the viability of many regional health services.”

Mr Picton said Labor would not build a $600 million basket-ball stadium, and instead pump $100 million of those funds into rural health and ambulance services.

But Mr Wade said that was just spin and Labor was playing smoke and mirrors.

Additionally, the Minister said if Labor was spending some of it on doctor salaries and not capital works “that would be interesting”.

“In the next four years, my understanding is there will be $10 million being allocated to the (basketball) arena, so really, they are not really promising $100 million in the next four years, they are promising $10 million.

“Whereas this government, we are spending in that period, we are already committed to $56 million.

“Labor is playing smoke and mirrors with the arena because there is only $10 million in the next four years.”

Mr Wade said in Labor’s last term of Government they spent $14 million on capital works.

“In the first three years of the Marshall Government, we’ve actually spent $60 million – we’ve actually outspent them four to one.”

Mr Wade did not say when the Government would renew contracts with country doctors.

The contracts expired in November last year.

Mr Wade said his visit to Naracoorte was to see the progress at the hospital regarding capital works.

Currently $3.1 million is being spent at the hospital on the refurbished surgical theatre and Central Sterile Services Department (CSSD), “with the upgrades set to provide better healthcare to the community”.

“We know there is an increase in demand for health services in the Limestone Coast region, and this upgrade will ensure that Naracoorte Hospital continues to deliver high quality care to patients, both now and into the future,” Mr Wade said.

“Patients will be able to receive the care they need with modern facilities, closer to home, without the need to travel long distances.

For many years orthopaedic surgeons Collie Begg and Ben Allen, of Adelaide, have continued to provide services at the hospital in unison with local doctors.

“The $3.1 million upgrade at Naracoorte Hospital will include improvements to the sterilising areas, theatre area and change rooms, so we can deliver efficient and safe care to patients,” Mr Wade said.

Limestone Coast Local Health Network Chief Executive Officer, Ngaire Buchanan, said the upgrades to the surgical theatre and Central Sterile Services Department (CSSD) would support the delivery of emergency obstetric services and deliver better healthcare to locals and surrounding communities.

“Naracoorte Hospital sees approximately 1200 patients per year requiring surgery, so these upgrades are extremely important to maintain our high standards and ensure we can continue delivering these health services to the community,” Ms Buchanan said.

The works are expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Naracoorte Community News 15 September 2021

This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News, 15 September 2021.

Related stories: Picton backs country doctors; Minister silent as doctors pull out of negotiations


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