Attracting new doctors to Port Augusta

HEALTH: Michelle Dunemann, Karyn Reid, Dr Amanda Bethell and Venessa Blinman are heading up the Community Stakeholder Work Group to support local doctors.
HEALTH: Michelle Dunemann, Karyn Reid, Dr Amanda Bethell and Venessa Blinman are heading up the Community Stakeholder Work Group to support local doctors.

A group of key community stakeholders are actively working together to attract much-needed doctors to Port Augusta’s growing community.

For many years Port Augusta’s dwindling number of doctors has been putting a strain on existing General Practitioners.

Patients seeking medical treatment are often waiting weeks before they can be seen by their local GP.

In August, 2018 the Port Augusta, Roxby Downs and Woomera Health Advisory Council facilitated and hosted the inaugural meeting of the Community Stakeholder Work Group.

The Community Stakeholder Work Group is designed to gather relevant stakeholders and organisations who can work together to identify potential recruitment barriers and to develop new ideas to ensure Port Augusta is a destination of choice for doctors.

Presiding Member of the Port Augusta, Roxby Downs and Woomera Health Advisory Council Karyn Reid said they are determined to support the community and the doctors who currently work in Port Augusta.

“For the past eighteen months the Port Augusta, Roxby Downs and Woomera Health Advisory Council has noted that the number of doctors leaving the city has been in excess of those who have moved here, resulting in a shortage of General Practitioners and distress as patients have not been able to access appointments in a timely manner,” Ms Reid said.

“This situation is experienced in a number of communities across South Australia.”

For many years Port Augusta was classified as a District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) which helped with the recruitment of doctors to the area.

However the status was revoked some time ago and the shortage has since reached a critical level. At times there has been as few as 10 full-time GPs looking after a town of nearly 14,000 people.

Port Augusta was once again overlooked during the federal government’s recent reclassification of sites last year.

Not being designated as a DWS means local practices are unable to recruit appropriately trained doctors from overseas.

A major priority for the Community Stakeholder Work Group is for the city to be reclassified as a DWS.

“The Work Group has contacted a range of agencies and politicians, including both the State Member for Stuart and the Federal Member for Grey, to advocate on behalf of our city and to ensure the particular health needs of our community are met,” Ms Reid said.

“Success from this co-operative approach has been highlighted by a recent announcement by the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency that a temporary dispensation from federal regulations will allow potential recruitment of five overseas trained doctors to Port Augusta over the coming months.”

The Rural Doctors Workforce Agency is now working with all participating general practices in Port Augusta, to attract interested doctors and support potential recruitment under this arrangement.