Advocacy needed

PORT LINCOLN VISIT: (back) James Ashby, Jo Irimpen, John Williams, (front) Hana Scorey, Emma Davidson, Samantha Mead, Chris Moy and Keith Jarrett at Lincoln Medical Centre last week.
PORT LINCOLN VISIT: (back) James Ashby, Jo Irimpen, John Williams, (front) Hana Scorey, Emma Davidson, Samantha Mead, Chris Moy and Keith Jarrett at Lincoln Medical Centre last week.

The head of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) in South Australia is calling for a whole of system approach to help retain doctors and services in the region.

AMA state president Dr Chris Moy said a visit to Eyre Peninsula last week was "really eye-opening".

"I knew there was a problem but seeing it firsthand and how precious the doctors are to the communities...it's a lot more moving than I thought it would be," he said.

"The communities to a degree feel abandoned by the health system."

Dr Moy was joined by AMA SA chief executive officer Dr Samantha Mead and local GP Dr John Williams for a tour of the Lower Eyre region and a meeting with the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance (NEPHA).

"We live in a first world country, but while we in the metro areas may complain about delays in services, families in rural areas often are forced to sleep at night with the terrible fear hanging over them of having no doctor or medical coverage available nearby," Dr Moy said.

NEPHA chairperson and Kimba mayor Dean Johnson said AMA played an important advocacy role in obtaining funding to find solutions to the health crisis.

"(Dr Moy) agrees with our assessment that communities are absolutely in crisis at the moment," he said.

"We can't keep living like this."

Mr Johnson said the sparse population and long distances between towns meant systems from other areas of Australia may not work on the Eyre Peninsula.

"It's such a complex problem and there are no easy solutions... it's going to require serious funding to find the solutions that work."

Mr Johnson said NEPHA and AMA were on the same page when it came to potential solutions, with better incentives for doctors to move to the country, a focus on "team based" healthcare models and innovative technology all part of the picture.

Dr Moy spoke with the Eyre and Western Local Health Network and said funds were needed immediately for the network and the Rural Medical Workforce Plan.

"It's upset me for many years now at the attitude country health services has had in the past toward doctors," he said.

"Our job...is to really highlight what's going on...we'll spread the word in Adelaide, advocate and keep pushing.

"We stand up for patients and the doctors providing the services."