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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, with $2.9 million of this to be spent in 2018-19.

The Rural Health Workforce Strategy Steering Committee, comprising representatives from the following stakeholder groups, along with an incoming regional Local Health Network Board Chair and the National Rural Health Commissioner, 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 Health SA Local Health Network
  • 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 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.

In addition, $290,000 has been allocated for a project team in Country Health SA 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.

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
  • an additional $7,000 for a junior doctor marketing strategy, to attract and encourage medical officers to work in country areas, which received $10,000 from the first round of funding allocations.

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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