Presiding member of the Eastern Eyre Health Advisory Committee Dean Johnson has resigned from his position, citing frustration over the government’s lack of interest in finding a general practitioner for Kimba.
Mr Johnson, also Kimba District Council mayor, has been on the health advisory committee for four years, and said it was the most frustrating position he had in his time in local government.
He said the state government was refusing to listen to the committee’s concerns, with two of the three communities it represented currently without full-time GP services.
“I feel like I had no option but to resign, because HACs now perpetuate the illusion that rural communities actually have a say in getting access to healthcare that those in urban areas take for granted,” he said.
The state government’s plan to improve rural healthcare services involves establishing regional boards of management to decentralise the system, but Mr Johnson said he is not convinced.
He said similar ideas had “failed badly” in the past, and that regional boards were likely to focus on larger towns and ignore small communities, with towns such as Port Lincoln standing to receive the most benefit.
“I’m really concerned small local communities will be even worse off,” he said.
Mr Johnson said he believed the cost of setting up and running new boards should be spent elsewhere, like the ongoing search for a permanent doctor in Kimba.
The Kimba District Council has so far invested more than $100,000 on recruitment efforts, and Mr Johnson said the state government was providing no assistance.
He believes the money for recruitment should be coming from the government, and that they should be developing programs to entice young medical professionals to start their careers in rural areas, without having their development stunted by poor access to services.
He said he is concerned the ultimate aim is to centralise services in Cleve, and close down surrounding facilities to save money.
With difficult farming conditions putting a strain on communities across the Eyre Peninsula, he said it was especially important everyone had easy access to mental health support.
He said the main advice given to those who were suffering from mental illness was to seek out support services, which was a serious concern when those support services were too far away for farmers to access.
“It’s like living in a third world country, it’s not good enough.”