Medical services in the remote town of Streaky Bay, South Australia, are maintained through raffles, community fundraisers and council contributions.
This scenario was described by Jonas Woolford during a Senate inquiry into the provision of GPs and related primary health care services in Australia.
The committee met in Whyalla at the Alexander Motel on Tuesday and heard from Mr Woolford, chairman of the Streaky Bay Medical Clinic.
It was the only committee hearing in South Australia.
Mr Woolford was quizzed by New South Wales Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill on how Streaky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula had responded to the city and district’s lack of doctors.
He replied that when he learned that the clinic was going to close, he attended a public meeting with 300 people.
The meeting had adopted a plan of action and Streaky Bay Council stepped in with a rate increase to contribute to a $200,000 loan while the Council took over for four to five months until they create an association to manage it.
Beginning in May 2018, for the first two years, locum physicians were funded at $2,000 a day to serve the community before Dr. Victoria Bradley, a new physician, joined the service.
“We are running at a loss of $25,000 per quarter,” Mr. Woolford said.
“There needs to be more emphasis on attracting people into the GP field.
“It seems a lot of doctors specialize and don’t want to be burdened with custody (demands), it’s not a great career.”
He said sometimes doctors coming to rural towns had to work with “archaic” equipment.
Mr Woolford said it would have been ‘inconceivable’ that the town could be left without medical services, with the nearest health service being in Ceduna, several miles away.
Senator O’Neill asked Mr. Woolford about the community’s $200,000 loan, to which Mr. Woolford replied that it had been increased mainly through a council-imposed rate increase.
She asked him if raffles, community fundraisers and council contributions had allowed the clinic to survive, to which Mr Woolford said yes.