Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Rural doctor update – Government still paying locums, not locals

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Chris Oldfield, Naracoorte Community News

The State Government is remaining tight lipped about how much it has spent on Locum GPs as its rural doctor crisis rolls into 2022.

The [Naracoorte] News asked Health Minister Stephen Wade, via his media advisor, if he was working on the SA rural doctor crisis and, how much had been spent on locum doctors since contracts with the state’s rural GPs expired more than a year ago.

Additionally, Mr Wade was asked how many days this month there were no available emergency doctors at the Naracoorte Hospital?

Currently the government is paying up to $3000 per 12-hour shift for locum GPs.

It has been doing so for more than a year rather than re-negotiate contracts with SA’s resident rural doctors, which expired state-wide on November 30, 2020.

An SA Health media advisor has replied to questions posed by The News with a statement attributable to the Limestone Coast Local Health Network.

But the amount spent on locums remains secret.

“We are currently seeking locum support to fill three days of medical coverage this month at Naracoorte Hospital Emergency Department (ED),” the statement says.

“Patients presenting to the ED will continue to be seen and treated by nursing staff, with arrangements in place to ensure ongoing emergency care, including accessing the South Australian Virtual Emergency Service (SAVES) overnight and MedSTAR support if required.

“We continue to engage with Kincraig Medical Clinic, Naracoorte General Practice and locums to participate in the medical roster to support the delivery of emergency services when needed.

“As always, Naracoorte Hospital ED is open during times where there is no cover and our staff will continue to provide patients the care and treatment they need.”

As “background” to the statement, the advisor said there were two days this month where medical coverage at Naracoorte Hospital was not filled.

“Contractual GP and locum arrangements at regional hospitals are site-specific and depend on the availability of local GPs, locums and salaried medical officers,” she said, claiming a contract was in place with a Memorandum of Understanding where both Kincraig Medical Clinic and Naracoorte General Practice were required to fill the medical officer roster for the Naracoorte Hospital Emergency Department.

“The roster is filled proportionately to both practices and the practices seek locums to fill the roster if required.

“The Rural Support Service are continuing to work towards a coordinated and sustainable SA Rural Medical Fee Agreement that benefits the rural GP medical workforce and the whole of regional South Australia. 

“As part of the ongoing negotiations with the AMA and RDASA, we have made increases to the payments for GPs in our offer, with an overall increase of roughly ten percent across the whole agreement.

We are always exploring ways to incentivise and attract more doctors to health services across our state to strengthen the rural medical workforce we need for the future.”

The News has previously reported contracts with rural doctors around the state expired on November 30, 2019, and a Memorandum of Understanding expired in the first half of 2020.

Naracoorte Community News 19 January 2022

This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News, 19 January 2022.

Related stories: Taxpayers funding locum doctors; Still no rural doctor solution

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