Approach needs to change

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, who helped organise their tour of the Lower Eyre region last week.

"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.

"The AMA has heard and heeded the repeated calls for action from our members and colleagues in Port Lincoln, Streaky Bay, Ceduna and other Eyre Peninsula and West Coast communities."

Dr Moy said he was inspired by the doctors on the Eyre Peninsula who could choose less stressful jobs elsewhere but instead helped out the smaller communities.

He said Port Lincoln was a beautiful town with a good hospital "but the future of the doctors there is hanging by a thread still."

"If that's the case in Port Lincoln, think about what it's like for places like Kimba or Cummins."

He said there were still barriers to enticing student doctors to country areas.

"They're the ones I can tell it's right on the edge...it's pretty parlous," he said.

"The positives versus negatives are barely hanging in the balance."

He said unfortunately better pay in the city, lack of support and having to travel to see family were some of the drawbacks for doctors.

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."