Rural Medical Workforce Plan

Front cover of the rural medical workforce plan South Australia’s Rural Medical Workforce Plan (PDF 1542KB) was prepared to meet the government’s commitment to develop and implement ‘a plan to recruit, train and develop the health professionals ... needed to deliver country health services’, as outlined in the government’s Rural Health Workforce Strategy 2018 election commitment.

The plan was released by the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, the Hon Stephen Wade MLC, in December 2019, and is being implemented by the Rural Support Service and regional LHNs in collaboration with rural clinicians, partner organisations and other stakeholders.

Coordinators are being appointed in the regional LHNs to support the implementation of the plan.

The plan aims to address immediate issues facing the rural medical workforce as well as deliver longer-term workforce sustainability through expanded regional and rural training opportunities and improved recruitment and retention.

Key strategies in the plan include:

  • Investigate the factors underlying career choices for medical students and junior doctors, focusing on improving rural GP applicant numbers.
  • Expand intern and PGY2+ training capacity in rural hospitals.
  • Introduce a coordinated medical rural generalist training pathway in South Australia.
  • Consider new medical models, including but not limited to the introduction of salaried medical positions in regional LHNs.
  • Provide digital and telehealth supports to rural GPs.

The first of these strategies has already been implemented. Led by Professor Caroline Laurence from the School of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, and managed by GPEx, the South Australian GP training organisation, the research saw a number of key stakeholders including medical trainees at the two SA universities, junior doctors, GPEx, rural clinical schools, SA Medical Education and Training (SAMET), and the RSS identify factors that influence specialty decision-making for doctors and ways to encourage a career in a rural general practice. The Medical Specialty Decision-Making Study Final Report (PDF 4512KB) was released on 6 March 2020.

The Trainee Medical Officer Unit in the RSS is leading the expansion of intern and PGY2+ training capacity in rural hospitals. For more information, visit the Rural medical training page.

A Rural Generalist Coordination Unit has been created within the Trainee Medical Officer Unit to coordinate the development of South Australia’s Medical Rural Generalist Training Pathway. For more information, visit the Rural medical training page.

Regional LHNs are exploring sustainable medical models to support service delivery in large rural hospitals, in line with the clinical services delivered at each hospital. The development of new medical models, including the potential for a shared or rotating medical workforce between metropolitan and regional LHNs, is one of the most important short-term outcomes from the plan, to help address the workforce challenges currently faced in some large rural hospitals.

Rural Health Workforce Strategy funding has led to the roll-out of rural DTN units in the emergency departments of all country public hospitals in South Australia, with the equipment installed in the final site, Murray Bridge, in December 2019. All of these sites now have access to high-quality specialist advice using the DTN, including the 24/7 Country Stroke Support Service and MedSTAR emergency medical retrieval service, and 30 of them have access to after-hours GP support through the SA Virtual Emergency Service (SAVES). The SAVES program provides virtual access to a rural GP for participating hospitals, between the hours of 7pm and 7am, seven nights a week, for lower acuity type presentations. This program was designed to provide a better work life balance for country GPs and support nurses when the local GP is unavailable.

For more information, please contact Dr Robyn Anderson on (08) 8226 7192 or email Health.RuralHealthWorkforceStrategy@sa.gov.au