A Roxby Downs doctor has resigned from South Australia’s Rural Health Workforce Plan steering committee in frustration over a shortage of regional GPs.

Key points:

  • A Roxby Downs doctor has resigned in frustration from the state’s steering committee 
  • Negotiations have stalled between SA Health, the Rural Doctors Association of SA and Australian Medical Association
  • Minlaton Accident and Emergency facility remains closed 

Simon Lockwood claims there has been a lack of action to address the problem and fears a crisis is looming. 

The steering committee was set up two years ago to negotiate better pay and conditions for rural doctors to entice more to the regions.

Dr Lockwood’s resignation comes amid stalled negotiations between the state government, the Rural Doctors Association of SA and the Australian Medical Association.

He said regional doctors have been working without stable contracts for almost a year.

“I resigned from the board because I felt like there was no hope in it being successful.”

Roxby Down’s Doctor Simon Lockwood resigned from the Rural Health Workforce Plan steering committee (Supplied: Simon Lockwood )

In response, Health Minister Stephen Wade said the state government is actively recruiting more regional doctors.

“The rural generalist pathway will train GPs particularly to provide hospital-level care,” said Mr Wade. 

“For example, in Wallaroo we’re out recruiting for three rural generalists who will provide GP and other type services within the hospital at Wallaroo.” 

But Dr Lockwood claims that an agreement needs to be reached to entice more GPs to move to the regions.

Some locums and emergency doctors are being offered up to $2600 to cover shifts — with more than 15 hospitals advertising for emergency clinicians across the regions.

“When local doctors are engaged in their local hospitals the outcomes are better, there’s less fly-outs, less retrievals,” Dr Lockwood said.

“Patients are discharged to their local hospital where the doctors know who they are.”

Minlaton Emergency remains closed

It comes as the town of Minlaton on the Yorke Peninsula has been without an accident and emergency service for weeks due to doctor shortages.

Minlaton’s accident and emergency department is closed for up to eight weeks.(ABC North and West: Shari Hams)

It is the seventh time the emergency clinic has closed this year. 

There are more than 800 residents in the town — with that capacity expected to double with travellers during busy summer months. 

Yorketown Medical Practice manager Leanne Warren says the influx of patients being redirected to the clinic (located 30 minutes away) has added pressure on already struggling staff. 

“A lot of pressure on our staff — the challenges the last few months have been devastating,” said Ms Warren.

Dr Mohammad Islam said it is not sustainable for Minlaton’s Emergency to remain closed and action needs to be taken as soon as possible.

Dr Mohammad Islam and Yorketown Medical Clinic manager Leanne Warren say it has been a stressful year. (ABC North & West: Shari Hams)

He is concerned for the busy summer months and an influx of tourists.

“We are having at least 50 per cent increase of patients who are being deferred via ambulance and some walk in from outpatients as well,” Dr Islam said.

Michael Chalk, the chief executive of Adelaide University Unicare, which owns and operates the centre, said in a statement the problem remains more critical than ever. 

The Minlaton Medical Centre is up for sale. 

Posted , updated