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Rural Health Workforce

Rural Health Workforce Strategy

South Australia faces many challenges in recruiting, training and developing the health professionals and skilled volunteers needed to deliver public health services in rural areas.

The Government of South Australia has provided an investment of $20 million over four years, from 2018-19 to 2021-22, to develop and implement a Rural Health Workforce Strategy to address these challenges.

The Rural Health Workforce Strategy Steering Committee, chaired by Rural Support Service Chief Clinical Adviser Dr Hendrika Meyer, and comprising representatives from the following stakeholder groups, along with regional local health network (LHN) and Rural Support Service members, Flinders and Upper North LHN Governing Board Chair Bevan Francis, and National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley, has been established to oversee the development and implementation of the strategy:

  • Aboriginal Health Council of SA
  • Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine
  • Australian Medical Association (South Australia)
  • Country SA Primary Health Network
  • Flinders University
  • GPEx
  • Health Consumers Alliance of South Australia
  • Local Government Association SA
  • Rural Doctors’ Association of South Australia
  • Rural Doctors Workforce Agency
  • Rural Faculty of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • SA Ambulance Service
  • University of Adelaide
  • University of South Australia

In January 2019, based on recommendations from the Steering Committee, the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, the Hon. Stephen Wade MLC, announced the following initial funding allocations under the Rural Health Workforce Strategy for 2018-19:

  • $840,000 for an expanded Digital Telehealth Network (DTN)
  • $200,000 for simulation and training equipment
  • $180,000 for mental health education for suicide prevention and patient management
  • $370,000 to improve services for long-term, high-quality maternity care
  • $260,000 for further specialised training for allied health professionals
  • $140,000 to provide additional training and career opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners

nurse with patient
$840,000 has been allocated in 2018
-19 for an expanded Digital Telehealth Network

The investment in the DTN will almost complete the roll-out of rural DTN units and mean the majority of country public hospitals in South Australia have access to high-quality specialist advice, including through the MedSTAR emergency medical retrieval service.

The allocation of the following additional funding for 2018-19 was approved by the Minister in March 2019, based on recommendations from the Steering Committee:

  • $107,360 for expanding training opportunities for community support workers that will assist with attracting, recruiting and retaining quality staff
  • $80,000 for supporting the rural community nursing workforce, allowing them to manage more complex clients in rural areas
  • $74,867 for registered nurse/registered midwife collaborative graduate programs
  • $35,392 for rural dental workshops with a facilitated introduction to the benefits of a rural career for dental professionals
  • $21,000 to expand the skills of the allied health workforce to improve the care for older people in rural South Australia

In addition, $290,000 was allocated for a project team to support the development and implementation of the strategy, including a broad plan for country health services as well as plans for each component of the rural health workforce.

In addition to these important investments, the initial priority for the Rural Health Workforce Strategy Steering Committee and project team has been the development of a Rural Medical Workforce Plan, with corresponding plans to be prepared for the South Australian Ambulance Service, nursing and midwifery, and allied health professional workforces, as well as additional future focuses on the Aboriginal health workforce and on the volunteers that support rural health care.

A research project to investigate the reasons Australian trained doctors are not choosing rural general practice as a career is also being planned.

For more information, contact Karen Lancaster on (08) 8226 6529 or at karen.lancaster2@sa.gov.au, or Lisa Cockington on (08) 8226 7024 or at lisa.cockington@sa.gov.au.  

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