New rural GP agreement bolsters regional SA healthcare and lures fresh medical talent

The SA Health Rural GP Agreement 2024-28 (GPA) has introduced a series of measures aimed at supporting rural doctors and encouraging new practitioners to rural communities.

In a bid to fortify regional healthcare and attract fresh medical talent, the SA Health Rural GP Agreement 2024-28 (GPA) has introduced a series of measures aimed at supporting rural doctors and encouraging new practitioners to embrace the challenges and rewards of serving rural communities.

As a testament to the invaluable contributions of rural General Practitioners (GPs) to their regional communities, the GPA will implement a three percent increase in sessional rates.

This boost in compensation recognises the significant work undertaken by rural GPs, who play a vital role in delivering healthcare services to underserved areas.

“GPs are the core of the rural medical workforce in South Australia and remain vital to delivery of future rural medical care,” Rural Support Service Executive Director, Debbie Martin, says.

To further entice new GPs into regional practice and those providing hospital services, the existing rural attraction payment, which can amount to $50,000, will be extended. Additionally, a new payment of up to $10,000 will be introduced, accessible to a broader range of regional sites, ensuring that more rural areas benefit from increased medical support.

In a bid to attract new doctors to an additional 32 country towns, enticing payments of up to $10,000 will be made available. Communities such as Mount Pleasant, Kapunda, Eudunda, Barmera, Meningie, Mannum, Renmark, Waikerie, Bordertown, Kingston, Millicent, Penola, Clare, Wallaroo, Peterborough, Laura, Port Broughton, Crystal Brook, Jamestown, Quorn, and Hawker will be among the beneficiaries of this incentive program.

The agreement also acknowledges the dedication of current GPs serving rural and regional communities with a recognition payment of $5,000 for each GP signing onto the new GPA. This serves as a token of appreciation for their ongoing commitment to delivering essential healthcare services in these underserved areas.

The GPA introduces a Non-Clinical Engagement Plan (NCEP) that will enable GPs to receive compensation for a wide range of non-clinical duties, including teaching, training, supervision, participation in regional Local Health Network meetings, and other vital hospital-based activities. This initiative acknowledges the multifaceted roles that rural GPs often assume beyond their clinical responsibilities.

Currently, more than 330 rural GPs and GP registrars are under contract with SA Health to provide medical services in rural and regional hospitals. These dedicated healthcare professionals deliver essential services ranging from emergency care to inpatient treatment, surgeries, obstetrics, and anaesthetics. All of this is in addition to their responsibilities in private practices, resulting in a substantial workload.

The GPA has been the result of collaborative negotiations involving the South Australian branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA(SA)), the Rural Doctors’ Association of South Australia, and the Rural Support Service on behalf of SA Health’s six regional local health networks.

This comprehensive agreement follows formal negotiations that began early in 2023 and included extensive consultation. A new joint working party will oversee the implementation of the agreed-upon actions.

“I would like to congratulate the negotiation team who worked together to achieve a good outcome for GPs in rural South Australia,” Rural Doctors’ Association of South Australia President and rural GP, Dr Bill Geyer says.

“It is important to recognise that many lessons were learned after our last round of negotiations and the Rural Support Service has been able to work with us to deliver a contract in a timely fashion”

Effective from 1 February 2024, the SA Health Rural GP Agreement represents a pivotal step in ensuring that rural communities receive the healthcare they deserve. This milestone is complemented by the recent announcement that, from 2025, Flinders University will operate a medical school program entirely within regional South Australia, dedicating forty medical student places each year to South Australia’s regions for their four-year studies.

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