Single Employer Model to attract more rural GPs

A new Single Employer Model seeks to attract more GPs to regional areas. Photo: Online
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A joint initiative from the Federal and State Governments aims to make it easier for South Australians to see a doctor, by attracting and retaining more doctors in regional and rural South Australia.

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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 with the opportunity to potentially quadruple 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.

“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,” Federal Minister for Health Mark Butler said.

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 offers a range of incentives to make working in rural and general practice more attractive and improve recruitment and retention of GPs in regional and rural communities.

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

According to the government, the model has shown positive results in previous trials, offering a level of security for many young doctors and providing a pathway to increase the number of rural GPs and highly skilled rural generalists across South Australia.

The SEM 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.

The new trial follows the success of the ongoing 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.This has increased the RMCLHN medical workforce both in the hospital and general practice by over 25 per cent. 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.

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.

“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,” South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton said.

“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.”

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

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