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Why South Australian country doctors are cashing in


Feb 24, 2022


Adelaide doctors are making a small fortune by taking advantage of critical shortages among medical professionals in South Australian rural areas.

And many aren’t even having to make a permanent move with some locums being paid up to $3000 a day on a fly-in, fly-out basis.

The crisp country air never smelled so good!

Opportunity isn’t just knocking, it is banging down the door.

If you’re interested in a change of scenery and lifestyle, or simply making a quick buck while it is there for the taking, now might be the time to act.

Fly in, fly out

Country centres are living on a knife edge.

Many town hospitals are reporting days with no doctor on call or even the availability of a locum during the last 12 months.

Naracoorte hospital went without a doctor on call for 27 days last year. Nearby Penola hospital had 21, Bordertown 4.5 and Booleroo Town Centre and Balaklava both had two.

The state’s south-east is particularly affected. Mount Gambier and Millicent are among seven SA country hospitals relying on flying in locums. But they are not always available and shortages remain.

Locums who do make themselves available have been commanding remuneration in the order of $3000 for a 12-hour shift!

Some rural hospitals are relying on locums to cover the shifts of up to 12 full-time doctors.

Mount Gambier has been the hardest hit with the hospital using an astonishing 4638 locum days in the 2020-21 financial year.

Port Lincoln (1470) and Berri (1058) were other prolific users of locums. While another seven hospitals averaged at least one locum shift every day.

A sea change is as good as a holiday

If living out of a suitcase doesn’t work for you, even in the short term, consider a permanent move to the country.

The SA Government is desperate to find a sustainable solution to its rural doctor shortage. It has committed $188m over two years in a bid to solve the problem.

This includes a $50,000 sign-on bonus for doctors moving to remote areas. There is also an option to be paid an hourly rate in hospitals or remain on a fee-for-service contract.

Doctors working locally know their patients and their medical histories, giving them a significant advantage over locums.

But there are reasons besides being paid more, why a country move might work for you.


Earn more, spend less – With fewer ways to spend disposable income, you can save for that house deposit, holiday or new car much more quickly. Or maybe put that HECS debt behind you in just a couple of years.

Feel good factor – Helping remote communities in need has to make anyone sleep better at night. You’ll also meet lots of new people and widen your personal network.

Work life balance – It can be busy in the country, no doubt. But you’ll also have more control over the hours that suit you as opposed to city practices which are usually much less flexible.

However, uprooting your business and personal life is a big decision and there are factors to consider.


Stir crazy – Country life isn’t for everyone. Some people need the constant buzz of the bright lights, restaurants and bars that go with it.

Lonely hearts club – Leaving family and friends can be tough. In South Australia, they may not be too far away. But the loss of daily or weekly contact for some can be too much.

Anxiety – Work will keep you busy but the isolation and unfamiliar surroundings can play havoc with some people’s mental health.

Get advice today

If you’re looking for ways to increase your wealth as a doctor, it’s important to get quality advice from an experienced medical accountant.

That holds true whether you are considering switching to a rural practice or maybe just climbing on board the locum bandwagon.

A big career switch has significant ramifications both in terms of tax and your long term financial goals.

Contact us today to discuss all of your professional needs.

The information contained on this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.

Taxation, legal and other matters referred to on this website are of a general nature only and are based on Nitschke Nancarrow’s interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied upon in place of appropriate professional advice. Those laws may change from time to time.

Nitschke Nancarrow specialises in accounting, tax and financial advice for superannuation.

Contact us now for a no obligations discussion about your needs.

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