Port Augusta residents would avoid having to travel hundreds of kilometres to access specialist healthcare under a new model proposed by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
Port Augusta currently has four resident paediatricians but does not have a resident specialist general physician servicing a population of 14,000 people, forcing many patients from the area to travel to nearby Whyalla or 300km to Adelaide for specialist treatment.
RACP SA State Chair Dr Robin Chase said current arrangements were costly and provided no continuity of care for local residents and called on both political parties to overhaul the system.
“The rapidly increasing costs associated with traditional models of specialist care in Port Augusta, including locum support and patient transport, mean that alternatives must be considered,” Dr Chase said.
“The adoption of regular rotating placements by a pool of physicians who visit Port Augusta, coordinated from metropolitan Adelaide, would establish the continuity of care that patients currently received in metropolitan hospitals, something that rural and regional patients also deserve.
“Physicians would be rostered to spend a week at a time at a designated hospital.”
Dr Chase said specialists working in remote areas often worked substantially longer hours than their city counterparts, which contributed to a low rate of staff retention.
“I know of one physician in Whyalla who was on call for 240 days of the year and this included up to 40 out of 52 weekends. Doctors in Port Augusta and Mt Gambier clock similar numbers,” he said.
“This is clearly unsustainable and we call on both political parties to commit to adopting the RACP’s model.”
Dr Chase said the new model would allow regular outpatient clinics to treat patients locally avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions and long trips to Adelaide for consultations. It would also reduce the number of medical evacuations through the Royal Flying Doctor Service or MedSTAR.
The RACP SA Election Statement outlines four key health priorities for both political parties to adopt after the March 15 election.