Rural medical training

A Trainee Medical Officer Unit in the Rural Support Service is working with regional local health networks, the university-led regional training hubs, GPEx and the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency (RDWA) to coordinate rural medical training, attract and encourage students and trainee medical officers to work in country areas and progress a coordinated rural generalist training pathway in South Australia, which is one of the most important strategies in the Rural Medical Workforce Plan.

In January 2019, rural intern numbers more than doubled from five to twelve, with five new positions based at Whyalla Hospital and an additional two positions based in Mount Gambier, bringing the total number there to seven.

The new intern positions were the result of a partnership with the University of Adelaide’s Adelaide Rural Clinical School and Flinders University, supported by funding from the South Australian Government and Australian Government for 2019 and 2020.

The five interns based out of Whyalla Hospital in the Flinders and Upper North LHN in 2020 (L-R): Dr Toon Yang Ong, Dr Evelyn Chai, Dr Himashi Pemasiri, Dr Natalie Lee and Dr Joseph Snyder

Five of the interns based out of Mount Gambier Hospital in the Limestone Coast LHN in 2020 (L-R): Dr Anand Ghataura, Dr ObaaYaa Bonsu, Dr Mona Zandiehvakili, Dr Fred Gott and Dr Ilze Alexander

More recently, Rural Health Workforce Strategy funding has supported the delivery of the Rural Intern GP Experience Program, which is being led by GPEx with the Trainee Medical Officer Unit and the general practice partners. The program is structured to give interns a broad educational experience of rural general practice and support them in being an active participant of the practice team during their rotation.

Funding through the Rural Health Workforce Strategy has also supported the expansion of the Road to Rural Intern Program, which is managed by the RDWA. The program allows 40 metropolitan-based interns each year the opportunity to complete 10-week rural general practice placements. Interns live and work in communities where health services are provided by local GPs, allowing interns visibility of rural general practice as a career and access to rural general practice mentors. Rotations for the 2021 training year are being finalised.

In addition, Rural Health Workforce Strategy funding has been used to establish two new PGY2+ training networks, for medical postgraduates in their second year and above. Applications opened in June 2020 for six PGY2+ trainee positions in the Upper Northern Training Network based across the Flinders and Upper North and Eyre and Far North LHNs and six positions in the Limestone Coast Training Network based across the Limestone Coast LHN. Successful applicants will undertake their training in 2021. These positions have been advertised through and the SAMET website.

The rural intern programs and PGY2+ trainee positions are important components of the Rural Generalist Program South Australia (RGPSA), which will be established in the 2021 training year. Rural generalists are multi-skilled practitioners, with additional training in areas such as anaesthetics and obstetrics, who can provide hospital-based care as well as primary care services. The program will provide end-to-end training networks with a clearly identifiable structure for trainees to progress through, and will help attract, train and retain a suitably skilled rural medical workforce.

A Rural Generalist Coordination Unit has been created within the Trainee Medical Officer Unit to coordinate the development of the RGPSA, using funding from the Commonwealth Government, which is currently implementing a national rural generalist pathway. The unit is working across both the hospital and GP-led primary care environments, and collaborating with a range of regional LHNs and external medical education and workforce stakeholders in the delivery of the program.

To provide strategic governance to the development and implementation of the RGPSA, a steering committee has been established, with representatives from the following organisations:

  • Rural Support Service
  • regional LHNs
  • Rural Faculty of the RACGP
  • GPEx
  • RDWA
  • Flinders University Rural Health SA
  • Adelaide Rural Clinical School, University of Adelaide
  • Rural Doctors Association of SA
  • Australian Medical Association of SA
  • South Australian Medical Education and Training Unit.

The following clinical lead and advisors have been appointed for the RGPSA:

  • Dr Mike Beckoff Rural Generalist Lead
  • Dr Phillip Gribble Rural Generalist Anaesthetic Advisor
  • Dr Stephen Holmes Rural Generalist Obstetric Advisor
  • Dr Jason Bament Rural Generalist Emergency Medicine Advisor.

For further details on these appointments, go to the Rural Generalist Coordination Unit November 2020 Update.

An RGPSA website is being developed with input from partner organisations and stakeholders, to be launched in early 2021. Containing details on the training available in South Australia, the website will be used in conjunction with social media, promotional materials and presentations to encourage students, trainee medical officers and rural GPs to consider a career in rural generalism.

For more information about rural medical training opportunities, visit the Careers in regional South Australia page, or contact Reece Johnson on (08) 8226 5737 or at