GP shortage message is getting through

Eastern Eyre Peninsula is acutely aware of the chronic shortage of doctors in rural SA.

I have been advocating for radical reforms and I am pleased the message has got through and we are taking serious steps to address the issue.

In rural South Australia there are 68 vacancies for doctors, 32 in Grey with those on northern EP, with our comparatively small populations and distance between communities, adding to the difficulty in recruiting new doctors.

Health Minister Greg Hunt agreed to join me in taking a first hand view of the situation and last week in Kimba we met with the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance (NEPHA) established to develop a GP workforce strategy for the area.

The meeting highlighted the negative impact the shortage of doctors has on health outcomes and additional costs borne by our communities, including people travelling for services and then shopping 'out of town'.

I was delighted when the minister committed $300,000 to assist them develop a multi-centre alliance with in-built capacity to provide support and backup for GPs.

Other bigger practices across Grey have serious doctor shortages and with practitioners nearing retirement have similar problems recruiting doctors.

In some cases, owing to pressure, practices have withdrawn general hospital services leaving the state picking up the bill for expensive locum services.

Our commitment to NEPHA comes from the $550m Stronger Rural Health Strategy announced in the 2018-19 budget to improve access to doctors, nurses and other health care services for the regions.

An additional $62.2 million for a National Rural Generalist Pathway will assist in properly skilling young doctors for the diverse challenges of rural medicine.

The nation's first Rural Health Commissioner, South Australia's Prof Paul Worley, is helping deliver the model, with a long background in rural practice he well knows the issues.

From next January rural registrars working under supervision will be able to directly bill Medicare for service, putting more doctors in regional Australia while completing their training.

ROWAN RAMSEY

Member for Grey

Letters to the editor

Responding to waste concerns

I write in response to Susan Craig's letter, 'Wake up to waste issue' (Eyre Peninsula Tribune, September 5, 2019).

Ms Craig questioned the ethics of radioactive waste management and the proposed facility being considered at three sites near Kimba and Hawker in South Australia and I am happy to respond.

Firstly, around 85 per cent of Australia's radioactive waste stream is directly linked to the production of nuclear medicine that, on average, one in two Australians will need during their lifetime.

Secondly, even if we stopped making the medicine - and that the alternative methods for meeting the demand for nuclear medicine products are limited - we'd still need to store waste that's built up over almost 70 years.

Thirdly, the waste is currently spread over more than 100 locations around the country, and needs to be consolidated into what will be a single, safe and purpose-built facility.

Finally, the reason we are having this conversation at three sites in South Australia is because landowners there volunteered their land and surrounding communities broadly supported having the conversation.

We are consulting about a facility for disposal of low-level waste and temporary storage of intermediate-level waste, all of which is very safe when properly managed.

For example, the TN-81 canister containing intermediate level waste from the reprocessing of spent fuel is so heavily shielded you can stand next to it without protective clothing.

The disposal of intermediate-level waste will ultimately be moved to a suitable facility in a different location - such as a deep geological repository.

I've answered many of Ms Craig's questions directly in the past and I'm happy to continue to do so.

SAM CHARD

National Radioactive Waste Taskforce general manager

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Letters

  • Send letters to the editor to rachel.mcdonald@eyretribune.com.au. All letters must include the writer's name and contact details. By submitting your letter for publication you agree the Tribune may edit the letter for legal, clarification, space or other reasonable reasons and may, after publication, reproduce the letter on the internet or in other media.