When you think about the work councils across South Australia do to develop and ensure the sustainability of regional communities, most inaccurately believe the list finishes with the traditional three Rs of rates, roads and rubbish.
One non-traditional area in which the Kimba District Council has gone above and beyond is in its attempts to recruit and retain a permanent general practitioner to provide a local healthcare solution to the 1100 residents who call the district home.
Why is it a non-traditional area? Put simply, the provision of health services remains a state government responsibility, yet council to date has been left with no other option but to commit more than $100,000 to the task over the past few years because successive governments have not made reliable, long-term general practitioner services – that do not involve waiting for a locum to visit or making a 160-kilometre round trip – a priority on the Eyre Peninsula.
Council is not alone in its frustration of having repeated pleas for intervention seemingly fall on deaf ears. Cowell residents are in a similar situation, and the frequency with which finding a regional doctor solution is raised at LGA and EPLGA meetings I attend hints at a widespread problem.
I’m sure it’s a scenario none of our metropolitan cousins will ever encounter, but when an answer can’t be found through conventional channels, our community looks to council to take up the slack. Talking medicine is a long way from waste management and local road maintenance, but if we don’t do it, who will?
There is enormous pressure on the council to deliver a solution to the residents of Kimba, and I firmly believe the only way to achieve that is through the development and implementation of a regional general practitioner framework, which would provide for the sharing of resources and allow the medical professionals we can attract to the Eyre Peninsula the capacity to have time off and, if they choose, become actively involved in our towns’ sporting and cultural bodies.
We need the state government, led by Minister for Health Stephen Wade, to hear the cries of our communities and take swift action. Kimba needs a doctor if our community is to have a healthy economy, not just for those who live there, but for the tens of thousands of visitors who experience our town every year.