Advocating for mental health services and rural health in general will be priorities for newly elected Australian Medical Association South Australia vice president, Dr John Williams of Port Lincoln.
The association has announced Dr Williams will serve as vice president, taking over from Dr Michelle Atchison who was elected president at the annual general meeting on May 6.
In filling the role Dr Williams is believed to be the first vice president based in a country area.
Dr Williams said he was excited and a real opportunity to advocate for rural health in South Australia and to support Dr Atchison in her role as president.
He said for himself and Dr Atchison a major priority was to help ensure mental health services would continue to be well supported throughout regional SA.
"Mental health is a priority for us and is certainly a big priority for rural areas," he said.
Dr Atchison said helping resolve the crisis in mental health in South Australia would be a major focus of the early months of her presidency.
"I am looking forward to working with colleagues and other mental health experts to ensure mental health patients are able to receive the care when they need and where they need it from qualified health practitioners across the state," she said.
A rural general practitioner in Port Lincoln for 16 years, Dr Williams said the AMA would also ensure other rural GPs are supported as they were an important part of our communities.
"Most rural doctors out there, they have a real heart for helping people and we'd like to see them supported," he said.
The ongoing recovery from COVID-19 will also be an area the association will look at across the state, especially as the vaccination rollout continues.
Dr Williams said it would take many months and even years to get back to normalcy, the vaccination rollout was just the first step.
"We have interesting times ahead of us with the rollout of the COVID vaccines, but there's lots of hurdles to cross as a community as we head back to something resembling normalcy," he said.
"We're very lucky in SA and Australia because we have a great public health system which has been one of the great protectors in our community."
Dr Atchison said the combination of her perspective as a private specialist in mental health in the metropolitan area, and Dr Williams' as a GP with extensive experience in public health and the issues affecting rural communities, would ensure the health of patients who are often overlooked remained at the core of AMA(SA) advocacy.
"John and I, and the council, hope to build on his efforts and continue to use the AMA's influence to develop and implement the best care possible throughout the pandemic and beyond," she said.
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