Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (13:31): It will come as no surprise to people in this place that I have been concerned about the issue of rural doctors for some time, and have been advocating for a long time for postcode-specific Medicare provider numbers. I continue that argument.
But I was very pleased last week to have Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, in my electorate. He visited Kimba, my home town, and he also visited Kadina. In Kimba we met with the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance, a group that has been formed from communities that either have no doctors or are severely ‘under doctored’, if you wish, to try to bring about a working model which will more suit modern doctors than perhaps it did the more vocationally focused members of the profession who preceded them. The minister was good enough to offer $300,000 funding for this group to employ a project officer over the next two years to deliver this outcome to the community; it is severely needed.
In Kadina we met with a group of practitioners. In some places and in some of these towns medical practices have withdrawn their services from local hospitals. That is now forcing the state government to employ very expensive locum services to backfill services in those hospitals. We have a crisis in lack of commitment by the medical profession to rural Australia. I’m hoping for a big change in the near future.