Rural health set for boost

Boosting country health resources is a goal for both the Liberal and Labor parties heading into next month’s state election.

Attracting health professionals to the region has been a big issue for Eyre Peninsula in recent years, with Streaky Bay, Wudinna and Kimba among the towns struggling to fill permanent doctor positions, while Cowell only recently recommenced a permanent GP service.

Under a $20 million Liberal Party plan, health professionals and skills volunteers would be recruited, trained and developed to address gaps in the health workforce in regional South Australia.

Peter Treloar

Peter Treloar

Member for Flinders Peter Treloar said Eyre Peninsula had faced continual challenges to recruit and retain resident specialists.

He said the Liberal plan would assist communities to fill skill gaps and attract specialists to regional centres.

“We will deliver funding to assist teaching and training in country hospitals, as well as doubling the number of medical interns in regional South Australia,” he said.

“Country health has been largely ignored despite and ageing population base.

“People on the Eyre Peninsula deserve to have access to adequate health services and this plan targets areas of great need in our region.”

The Liberal plan includes doubling the number of medical interns in the country; allocating teaching hospital funding to country local health networks (LHN), enabling those networks to negotiate cooperative shared training arrangements with metropolitan networks; supporting the recruitment and retention of resident specialists through the engagement of interns, registrars and medical officers with specialist skills; and developing registered nurse/midwife collaborative graduate programs in regional towns.

LABOR: Candidate for Flinders Julie Watson.

LABOR: Candidate for Flinders Julie Watson.

Labor candidate Julie Watson said a re-elected Labor government would continue to work toward meaningful engagement in education and training opportunities.

“It’s easy to make promises around opening up training opportunities but the difficulty lies with ensuring that students receive adequate training with appropriate support and do not end up disadvantaged or needing to take longer with their degrees as a result of learning in the country,” she said.

Ms Watson said a re-elected Labor government would continue to work with key stakeholders, including councils and the Australian Medical Association, and fund the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency to develop incentives to attract doctors to regional areas.

Ms Watson said she was proud of the state government’s recent $140 million announcement for country hospitals and that funding to Country Health SA had increased in the past four years.

Australian Conservatives candidate Tony Parker said his party would address works backlogs at hospitals and restore regional boards.

“The Australian Conservatives plan to address the $100-million backlog of capital works and maintenance of our rural hospitals within a term of government, the first $50 million worth of the most pressing needs to be addressed within two years,” Mr Parker said.

The Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association recently formed a working party to assist in developing strategies and policies to help tackle the issue and has sent an open letter to state Liberal, Labor and SA Best parties as well as federal politicians explaining the difficulties Eyre Peninsula communities have faced.