Drip feed of country doctors

More medical students are to be posted to Country Hospitals in the hope of encouraging graduates to consider permanent country postings, the government announced last week.

The Country Health Network, which services the Barossa and Light area, will receive an increased number of medical interns this year; from around five to 12. 

“This is good news for regional SA, and for the Schubert electorate,” Schubert MP Stephan Knoll said.

However, despite a widely reported shortage of doctors in our region, none of these interns will be trained within the Barossa area; instead going to the larger hospitals in Whyalla and Mt Gambier for their training. 

A Country Health SA spokesperson confirmed with the Barossa Herald that the interns could not be trained in the Barossa and Light region.

“To begin with, interns will be based at Mount Gambier and Whyalla hospitals because those hospitals are associated with the partnership between Country Health SA and the two South Australian regional training hubs at Flinders University and the University of Adelaide,” the Country Health SA spokesperson said.

“Country Health SA will continue to work with our key stakeholders to encourage more South Australians to pursue their medical careers in the country, ultimately boosting doctor numbers in rural and regional SA.”

Additionally, the State Government promised during the 2018 election to investigate the possibility of a new Barossa Hospital Hub.

“In a pre-election commitment, the government indicated it would allocate $200,000- $300,000 to develop a more detailed business case on a new Barossa hospital,” Health Minister Stephen Wade told Parliament in June 2018.

“The business case process will be undertaken in the 2018/19 period.”

Until then, the government is banking on these seven extra interns getting a taste for country work and deciding to stick around. 

“By enabling more junior doctors to undergo training in country hospitals and GP practices, we hope they might remain in the country or perhaps consider becoming visiting specialists.” Health Minister Wade said.

The initiative is part of the State Government’s $20 million Rural Health Workforce Strategy, which aims to address the shortage of health practitioners in country areas.