It is refreshing to finally see our efforts to attract and retain our GPs on the Eyre Peninsula gaining the attention of our pollies at a state and federal level.
For years we have had to watch the doctor shortage crisis unfold with our doctors - many of whom spent their lifetimes in our communities practicing - retiring or moving on. The increasing desire among young doctors to specialise, paired with the minimal opportunities for medical students to experience general practice in regional or rural areas has played a part in the dwindling numbers of health professionals settling on the Eyre Peninsula.
In the past two weeks, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and state Health Minister Stephen Wade, pictured, have visited the region, in part to put an ear to the ground, but to also bring news of progress on the GP workforce strategy and the ongoing consultation for the Rural Medical Workforce Plan. It is good to finally have the voices of Eyre Peninsula health professionals and members of the public heard by our governments. While we have known for years the crisis at hand, we have stuck our heads down and got on with the job as best we could.
Doctors have searched far and wide for other GPs at their practice, filled gaps where needed, and just recently the formation of the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance has shown the region's ability to find workable solutions for the long term. Dr Scott Lewis, a GP in Wudinna, has searched for another doctor for his practice for four years to no avail. He has said a "try before you buy" system like the federal government's now defunded Prevocational General Practice Placements Program, could help attract young doctors to rural areas. There are of course still roadblocks in giving doctors incentives to set up shop in our towns.
At least we can finally see the problem is being seriously considered by state and federal leaders thanks to our community leaders and health professionals who have tackled the problem head on since day one.