New trial to attract and retain more doctors in regional and rural South Australia

Department of Health

The Albanese and Malinauskas Governments are making it easier for South Australians to see a doctor by attracting and retaining more doctors in regional and rural South Australia.

The new Single Employer Model (SEM) will support up to 60 additional GP and rural generalist registrars training in the community at any one time – potentially quadrupling the state’s existing cohort as the program scales up over time.

Under the program, GP and rural generalist registrars will have the option of being employed by the South Australian Health Service as salaried employees. This would allow them to have a single employer while placed in GP practices in rural and regional locations across the state, instead of having to change employers every six or 12 months with each new placement.

By providing GP and rural generalist registrars with guaranteed income and entitlements such as annual leave, parental leave, sick leave and other remuneration and benefits received by doctors working in hospital settings, the SEM will make working in rural and general practice more attractive and improve recruitment and retention of GPs in regional and rural communities.

This will give medical graduates the best opportunity to build their careers while supporting our medical workforce in regional and rural areas, making it easier for South Australians to see a doctor.

This is a model that has worked in previous trials. It offers the security that many young doctors are after and provides a pathway to increase the number of rural GPs and highly skilled rural generalists across South Australia.

It will cover five regional and rural Local Health Networks (LHNs) in Barossa Hills and Fleurieu, Eyre and Far North, Flinders and Upper North, Yorke and Northern, and Limestone Coast.

This new trial is in addition to the success of the Riverland Academy of Clinical Excellence (RACE) in the Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network (RMCLHN), which commenced in 2022 and supports up to 20 rural generalist trainees at a time.

Today there are more than 30 Australian-trained RACE trainees at various stages of their medical careers, with a retention rate of more than 98 per cent.

This has increased the RMCLHN medical workforce both in the hospital and general practice by over 25 per cent.

The RMCLHN trial is already attracting and retaining rural generalist registrars in the region as doctors also successfully integrate into local primary care and hospital systems.

The new trial is part of an SEM expansion announced in the October 2022 and May 2023 Federal Budgets. Trials will run until 2028.

Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:

“We want to attract more doctors to regional South Australia and this innovative approach will help to retain the doctors we need to continue to provide essential primary healthcare services to South Australians.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with the Malinauskas Government to make training and working in rural general practice a more attractive option for young doctors. Importantly, it will make it easier for people in regional South Australia to see a doctor close to home.

“The Albanese Government continues to support new models of care, and remove unnecessary barriers, to strengthen Australia’s primary care services now and in the future.”

Quotes attributable to Premier Malinauskas:

“The Malinauskas Government is very supportive of any initiative that helps to attract and retain doctors to regional South Australia.

“I want to thank the Albanese Government for adopting this new model of care that makes it attractive for registrars to deliver services in the country.

“Bringing in more doctors to regional South Australia continues our recruiting drive in the past two years to boost the state’s health system, when we have hired more than 1,400 extra health workers.”

Quotes attributable to Minister Picton:

“We have seen how successful the Single Employer Model has been in the Riverland for the past two years, increasing the medical workforce by more than 25 per cent in the region.

“I am thrilled this is now rolling out across the rest of South Australia and supporting up to 80 GP and rural generalist registrars training in the community.

“South Australians deserve access to quality health care no matter where they live, and having more doctors in the country is another step towards achieving this.”

Quotes attributable to Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network Chief Executive Officer Wayne Champion

“The Single Employer Model allows us to engage Trainee Medical Officers for the whole of their post-graduate medical training pathway, from graduation with a medical degree to Fellowship as our employees.

“It means we can offer a structured program to meet all their training needs so that they can graduate as a fully qualified GP or Rural Generalist, while offering long term employment certainty.

“This is the secret sauce that has seen the program’s long-term success and we’re delighted to see other areas of the state will now have the opportunity to follow our lead.”

Quotes attributable to Riverland Academy of Clinical Excellence inaugural intern cohort member, Dr Jerida Keane

“The single employer model at RACE has offered the capacity for flexibility, the opportunity to rethink fixed structures, and removed barriers for doctors to train to be rural generalists.

“The fee for service model works for some trainees, the single employer model works better for others, and some prefer a mix of the two. Flexibility and options are key to maximum retention.

“RACE has shown that when implemented with a collection of other retention strategies, single employer models have the capacity to retain doctors in regional areas.”

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