Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (13:31): During the last week, I was very pleased to host the Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, Mark Coulton, in my electorate. We met with a number of delegations of doctors, discussing the rural doctor crisis. We met with, I think, 12 different mayors in a couple of different groupings, and I can tell you that pretty much the No. 1 topic on the mayors’ list as well as the doctors’ list is the shortage of doctors in the region.
There was a debate or a discussion recently around the fact that there was an article in The Weekend Australian saying that we spent $2 billion on these problems over the last 10 years but we’ve still got the problem, and I couldn’t agree with that more. I think we are going to have to strike a different stance on making sure that we’ve got good medical cover in the country. One of the doctors I met with had been looking at retirement. He’d served the Port Augusta community for 50 years and moved to Adelaide. He’s now moved back to prop up the service at the age of 78. We can see this retirement wave coming down the pipeline as practitioners in their 60s and 70s are saying, ‘I can’t go on anymore.’ We’re seeing practices pulling back from providing services to hospitals and we’re seeing state governments forced to use locums to fill up the gaps at four times the cost.