RURAL Doctors have welcomed Federal Government funding to extend locum relief to overworked GPs and specialists.Under the Specialist Obstetrician Locum Scheme, locum assistance was subsidised for regionally-based GPs and specialist obstetricians.
This has now been extended to include support to rural anaesthetists.
The Rural Obstetric and Anaesthetic Locum Scheme gives eligible rural obstetricians and anaesthetists subsidised locum support for up to 14 days a year.
“Given how successful SOLS has been to-date in delivering locum support to rural obstetricians across Australia, it makes tremendous sense to expand the program to also support rural anaesthetists” Rural Doctors Association of Australia President Sheilagh Cronin said.
Dr Cronin said many rural obstetricians and anaesthetists were continually on call for their communities and found it hard to get away from their practice.
“This (program)…can make a real difference in encouraging these doctors to remain in their communities in the longer-term,” she said
She said assisting doctors get locum support helped regional communities retain specialist services like obstetrics and anaesthetics.
“We commend the Federal Government on providing the additional funding needed to expand this important program.”
Mildura obstetrician and member of RDAA’s Rural Specialists Group Ian Pettigrew said the old scheme had been extremely successful and meant doctors could take leave without leaving their communities without cover.
“It makes a big difference particularly when you have solo practices and (doctors) want to go away for study leave or recreational leave,” Dr Pettigrew said.
“It gives the community continuing care.”
But he said medical indemnity insurance was a problem for regional doctors with private practices who wanted to access the locum program.
Doctors, such as those who work in the public system, and don’t have their own insurance can’t work as a locum at a private practice.
Dr Pettigrew called on Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek to provide medical indemnity insurance cover for the doctors participating in the scheme.