Rowley Road Clinic
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (14:44): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Health and Wellbeing regarding primary health care.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I have been contacted by the Rowley Road GP clinic, a GP clinic in Adelaide's southern suburbs. They inform me that they have faced significant challenges finding GPs for the clinic and have been unsuccessful in their attempts to secure overseas-trained GPs. Can the minister update the council on GP services in South Australia?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:45): I thank the honourable member for his question, and I am happy to address the issue. As the honourable member will know, GP services are administered by the commonwealth government rather than the state. The state has only limited ability to change the provision of health services in this area. Nevertheless, the services provided by GPs are an important part of the healthcare sector and, as we have discussed previously in this house, particularly in country South Australia engagement of GPs is integral to the continued service provision in most of our country hospitals. I think it would be single figure numbers of hospitals in country South Australia that are not relying on GP-based medical services.
I think the honourable member's question refers to the Rowley Road clinic in the south, and I understand that that clinic has been unsuccessful in finding overseas-trained doctors to work at the clinic. Whilst I am not aware of the specific circumstances, I can give the council information on the GP situation generally.
The latest figures from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency for GPs in South Australia suggests that, as at 30 June 2018, 1,990 general practitioners are registered in South Australia. However, this number does not include registrars and does not include non-vocational registered general practitioners. A non-vocationally registered general practitioner is not affiliated with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. The essential difference between a vocationally registered and a non-vocationally registered GP is that the latter will attract a lower level of Medicare rebate. However, it is thought that those numbers would be low.
Figures from the commonwealth Department of Health for South Australian GPs for 2016-17 include the non-vocational registered GPs at 307, registrars at 341 and vocationally registered GPs at 2,147, with a total of 2,795. Although I am advised that, overall, there are adequate numbers of Australian-trained GPs to ensure recruitment to fill vacancies in metropolitan Adelaide, on some occasions a general practice may experience difficulty recruiting Australian-trained GPs and, if a practice has trouble recruiting Australian-trained GPs, they can apply via the area of need process through SA Health to recruit an international medical graduate.
The area of needs process allows an international medical graduate, who would not usually be registerable by the Medical Board of Australia, to have limited registration in a practice that has not been able to recruit an Australian-trained GP. The practice must test the market by genuinely advertising a position that would normally be suitable for and attractive to an Australian-trained general practitioner. This must take place over a three-month period without success before the position can be approved as an area of need position. This is to meet appropriate immigration and registration requirements.
Whilst I suspect they have already engaged that process, I would encourage the honourable member to refer the clinic to the program, and I take the opportunity to reiterate the concerns I have mentioned previously in the context, particularly, of Port Augusta, that the area of need process does seem to have either unintended consequences or is less than effective at targeting support to areas that need it. Whether it is an area of need within metro Adelaide or an area of need within the country, it is very important that the commonwealth, in providing regulation for general practitioners, makes sure that their processes target the additional support where it is needed most.