Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (13:58): Sadly, currently the electorate of Grey is 29 GPs short. They are an essential part of our rural communities, as are the hospitals that they support. Just 18 months ago we were only 19 short, and I am concerned about the direction in which we are heading. A town without a doctor and without a hospital is a very difficult place to attract new residents to, and even more so when it comes to establishing new businesses or growing existing businesses, which in turn supply the jobs that might otherwise attract new workers to become residents.
That is why I applaud the budget commitment to growing the numbers of specialist rural GPs. It is a $550 million commitment to rural health to supply advanced training to improve the skill sets and confidence not only of doctors but of nurses. In many cases the doctors that have filled the gaps in electorates like Grey have come from overseas. They do not necessarily have the confidence and the skill sets which equip them properly to work in these places. We will work with those people and bring them up to standard. There’ll be more places for undergraduates taking experience in rural practice.
On 2 May, I met with the Port Augusta, Roxby Downs, Woomera Health Advisory Council and the Far North Health Advisory Council to discuss how it was that Port Augusta missed out on being listed as a region of doctor-workforce shortage. I’m seeking an explanation from the minister at the moment and looking for change in the system.