$386,000 bill for WA to get medical staff

The "fly-in, fly-out" health workforce included emergency department doctors, anaesthetists, psychiatrists, nurses, obstetricians and paediatric specialists. Photo / Thinkstock
The "fly-in, fly-out" health workforce included emergency department doctors, anaesthetists, psychiatrists, nurses, obstetricians and paediatric specialists. Photo / Thinkstock

Western Australia is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars flying in surgeons, nurses and doctors from as far away as Oman to cover shifts in remote and rural areas.

A parliamentary report reveals that in the last three months of 2012, travel expenses were paid 185 times for medical staff to fly in from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, New Zealand and, on one occasion, Oman.

The flights cost local taxpayers more than A$340,000 ($386,000).

Most of the trips were to cover medical shifts in remote and rural regions including Broome, Karratha, Kalgoorlie, Albany and Port Hedland.

The "fly-in, fly-out" health workforce included emergency department doctors, anaesthetists, psychiatrists, nurses, obstetricians and paediatric specialists.

Health Minister Dr Kim Hames says Western Australia is not exempt from a global shortage of specialist medical professionals.

"Our preference is to strengthen education and training here in WA and grow our own specialist workforce," he said.

Hames defended the practice, saying often there's not enough work to require a full-time position in smaller communities, and staff may also be brought in to cover leave.

Richard Choong, president of the Australian Medical Association in WA, says the practice is an unfortunate necessity to keep the state's health service running in rural regions.

- AAP

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