GP and obstetrician withdraws her services from three SA hospitals due to contract disputes

A doctor who has serviced the Jamestown, Peterborough and Orroroo hospitals in South Australia’s mid-north for decades has withdrawn her services due to contract disputes with SA Health and the Rural Support Service.

Rowena Conway has worked in the region as a GP and an obstetrician for almost 30 years and the contract only allows one doctor to service one specific hospital at a time.

She said she had tried to settle the dispute with department officials but repeatedly faced roadblocks.

“We’re much more flexible than that, since we have doctors who will travel to each town and we have doctors who will be on-call for two towns,” Dr Conway said.

“If they’re caught up in another town then someone else in the system can back them up.

“We’ve got flexibility, but the contract doesn’t seem to understand that.

“The roster doesn’t show what we do and how well we support each other.

“The Rural Support Service (RSS) — who are deciding the contracts — doesn’t understand how hard we’re working.

“We’re looking to get a good contract so we can attract young doctors to the area.

“We feel unsupported, undervalued, and ignored.”

Dr Conway said the governing staff at the Yorke and Northern Local Health Network had been supportive but there was a lack of understanding from the RSS.

“I’d like to negotiate contracts with the person who I can see and who will admit responsibility,” she said.

“But at the moment, I’m shadow boxing.”

Invoices ‘rejected’

Dr Conway said she was also six weeks behind on her pay.

A smiling blonde woman wearing colorful spectacles.
Rowena Conway has withdrawn her medical services after months of contract disputes.(Supplied: Rowena Conway)

“I’m not getting paid adequately and my invoices are being rejected by the Rural Support Service,” she said.

“I’m still dedicated to serving the area and I’m not going to leave.”

In a statement, a spokesperson from the Yorke and Northern Local Health Network said the contract with Goyder’s Line Medical Center needed to be revised.

“We are working with Goyder’s Line Medical Center to address their concerns as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

“We are diverting emergency care at Peterborough and Orroroo hospitals through the South Australian Ambulance Service and MedSTAR as per our contingency plans.

“We will also use the South Australian Virtual Emergency Service where appropriate during this temporary change to services.”

A man in a dark suit, looking straight ahead.
Premier Peter Malinauskas says the state can’t afford to lose more doctors.(ABC News)

Premier Peter Malinauskas said he understood the challenges rural and regional doctors faced.

“They are doing extraordinary work under often difficult conditions,” he said.

“I’ve had a conversation with the Health Minister and asked for him to look into this and he assured me that he would be undertaking that exercise today.

“The simple reality is that we can’t afford to lose GPs.”

Health Minister Chris Picton has been contacted for comment.

No response has been provided, but the press conference is expected to be held later today.


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