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How to provide adequate staffing at all times in a rural hospital

Photo: How to provide adequate staffing at all times in a rural hospital
Hawker Memorial Hospital is located in South Australia, approximately 365 kilometres from Adelaide. Hawker is a regional town with a population of roughly 300 residents. The hospital has eight residential aged care beds, four acute beds and an outpatient/emergency department. The medical centre is also located onsite with a general practitioner consulting three days a week and available on call for the remaining four days.

In a small rural/remote community it is almost impossible to cover all staff that go on leave as the population size lends Itself to staff shortages and difficulties in maintaining a sufficient casual staff pool. This forces rural and remote hospitals like Hawker Memorial to rely on agencies to backfill positions which can be very costly.

Bernadette Rogan is the Nurse Unit Manager at Hawker Memorial Hospital and her role is to ensure that the hospital can still provide minimal staffing 24 hours a day. The team at the hospital found a way to provide adequate staffing at all times in August 2014 when they submitted their first application for locum support with the Rural Locum Assistance Program (Rural LAP).
"It is a very good service for rural and remote communities. We have used Rural LAP several times now when our nurses go on leave and the locum nurses that come here all have a wide range of experience and are happy to work in any situation" Bernadette explained.

The Australian Government-funded locum program appeals to rural and remote hospitals and health services in many ways but most importantly it is cost effective. Bernadette said, "it is better for us to use Rural LAP as opposed to agencies as there are no fees and charges. The application process Is also very easy and the team are always very helpful and prompt with their replies."

Rural LAP is a component of the Australian Government’s rural workforce capacity agenda managed by healthcare solutions provider, Aspen Medical. The program aims to provide targeted rural and remote support services to general practitioners (obstetricians and anaesthetists), specialists (obstetricians and anaesthetists), nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in rural and remote Australia. All Aboriginal medical services throughout Australia are eligible to receive locum support.

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