Hesitation about doctor handouts

VICTOR HARBOR - Victor Harbor doctors have been offered $450,000 per year to provide on-call services to the local community, as part of a new agreement reached between Country Health SA (CHSA) and the Rural Doctors Association of SA (RDASA).

As part of the agreement, clinics will receive $150,000 per year to provide an after hours emergency care roster, $150,000 per year to provide an after hours obstetrics roster and $150,000 per year to provide an after hours anaesthetics roster.

But the agreement has been met with some hesitation. Dr David Batt from the Victor Medical Centre said it is quite a departure from the current arrangements and as such, is not something to be considered lightly.

"We need to ensure that any new agreement continues to provide what is best for the community, with no reduction in services to the South Coast District Hospital," he said.

Dr Batt pointed out the funds will be split between the clinics.

"Under the current agreement, the Victor Medical Clinic, Norfolk House and the Goolwa Medical Centre have, for the past four years, each given up parts of their allowance so that CHSA can fund the Hospital's after-hours presentations with a locum service," he said.

"In return, the local GPs cover emergency presentations to the hospital from 8am to 8pm, along with providing 24-hour obstetric and anaesthetic services.

"CHSA also implied that the local GPs do not contribute to afterhours care. This is incorrect, as the locals GPs cover weekends and public holidays from 8am to 8pm, often working past these hours to lessen the burden on the locums.

"The new agreement overturns the current arrangement and we are now considering what is viable for the future," Dr Batt said.

CHSA chief executive officer Professor Belinda Moyes said the three-year agreement signalled a continuation of the strong working relationship between country GPs and health services.

"CHSA, along with the RDASA, is encouraging regional physicians to sign up to the generous new agreement to provide after hours health care to country South Australians," she said.

"There are a number of demands and pressures placed on country GPs and the agreement offers a range of incentives and payments which recognise this substantial commitment.

"Currently after hours services at South Coast District Hospital are not provided by the local GP workforce making it necessary for locums to travel to Victor Harbor to provide this service.

"It's important that rural GPs work in conjunction with CHSA to ensure country residents can receive safe, high quality health care within their local community."

So far a majority of medical practices have already indicated their intention to participate in the new agreement and the process is now underway to finalise these contracts by November 30.

The agreement offers consistent terms and conditions for all country doctors.

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