House of Assembly: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Regional Health Services

Mr McBRIDE (MacKillop) (15:05): My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, what is the government doing to attract and retain nurses in regional areas? With your leave, Mr Speaker, and that of the house, I will explain.

Leave granted.

Mr McBRIDE: In 2022, the Department for Health and Wellbeing agreed to implement rural and remote incentives that would encourage nurses to work in the regions, but as yet this hasn't occurred.

The Hon. C.J. PICTON (Kaurna—Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:05): Thank you very much to the member for MacKillop for his question. Firstly, we do have a number of incentives that are in place in relation to regional nurses and midwives. These have been in place for some time. I understand these range from $1,138 for a nurse's first year in places such as Kangaroo Island, Mount Gambier and Port Lincoln, and go up to $5,039 for a nurse's first year in locations such as Roxby Downs, Woomera and Coober Pedy.

Current staff are also eligible for locality allowances, payable per annum on an ongoing basis. The maximum allowance applicable for an employee with a spouse and two children, I am advised, is $12,095. The incentives have been in place for some time and there is a cohort of different localities that determine the incentives that are in place.

That is separate from what we put in place last year, which was a number of incentives in terms of attracting staff to work in SA Health, and particularly additional incentives if they came to work in regional areas. That was up to $15,000 in reimbursing their expenses in moving to those areas, and that includes if somebody was to move from a metro area to one of those regional areas as well.

I think what the member is also referring to is that, as part of the last nurses' enterprise bargaining agreement, we agreed with the ANMF SA to review those incentives that have been in place that I referred to earlier. That review has been ongoing. We are working with the ANMF in relation to that. We are hopeful that we can reach agreement in terms of updating that schedule of those allowances and incentives that are in place, but those existing incentives continue to apply across regional South Australia.

As the member will also be interested to know, we are continuing to hire more nurses and undertake more graduate nurse training based in regional areas as well. Through the course of this year, some nearly 25 per cent of our graduate nurses and midwives will be engaged across regional local health networks. The member and I, late last year, were in Nelson hospital, where they had taken on graduate nurses for the first time in the hospital and that's an excellent sign of us continuing to develop those graduate nurse roles in regional South Australia, which we are obviously very keen to make sure continues.

In fact, I am advised that the largest group of our regional new graduates coming in this year is in the Limestone Coast Local Health Network, where there are 49 nurses and eight midwives starting. Of course, these are the future of our health workforce and may well be looking after all of us one day and we want to make sure that they have very successful careers.