Health Minister commits funding to help doctor crisis

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt committed $300,000 to assist the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance (NEPHA) to develop a GP workforce strategy during a visit to Kimba on Monday.

The funding will provide a project officer for two years for the health alliance, that was formed in June to help attract and retain health professionals in the region.

The money will go toward the officer's wages ($100,000 a year), and $50,000 a year towards ancillary costs.

Mr Hunt met with doctors, dentists, health professionals and members of council, some of who helped form the health alliance, to discuss the doctor shortage on the EP, and said it was "collectively one of the best presentations I've had".

"What we've agreed is that the Australian government will support a project officer for two years to work with the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance to develop an Eyre Peninsula health and GP workforce strategy," he said.

"The most heartening thing is that you've got local communities that are working on their own solutions....they've been getting on with it whether it's here in Kimba or Cleve or elsewhere, but they need some support, that's what we're doing.

"We're stepping in in two ways, one with the development of the Eyre Peninsula health and GP workforce plan, secondly, there are other commonwealth incentives through the rural Medicare provider number, training programs that can assist that plan, deliver the doctors, deliver the nurses, and deliver the health professionals to the peninsula."

He also said he'd taken steps to "expedite" the rural generalist pathway in South Australia, the only state yet to have the pathway rolled out to help retain health professionals in rural areas.

Dr Scott Lewis has been based in Wudinna for 11 years and says the lack of junior doctor or internship programs in rural and remote areas in the state are a "missed opportunity".

He said junior doctors are lost to the hospital systems, with no opportunities to facilitate them in rural areas or to grow their interest in general practice.

He said having a program to "try before you buy" would be part of the new strategy.

He said NEPHA would likely openly advertise for the position of project officer, and once the strategy is developed it will be used to promote and present to governments for support.

"The opportunity to have a locally relevant plan is going to be really good going forward," he said.