A Mannum doctor has been appointed to chair a new body which will oversee health services in the Murraylands and Mallee.
Dr Peter Joyner will chair the Riverland, Mallee and Coorong Local Health Network (LHN), one of 10 networks being set up around South Australia to make good on a pre-election promise by the new state government.
Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said the appointment was a step towards returning responsibility for decision-making to locals, rather than bureaucrats based in Adelaide.
Doing so would allow the state government to be more responsive to community needs, and to deliver better value to patients, he said.
The state Opposition has argued that the changes could lead to some of South Australia's 42 Health Advisory Councils (HACs) – such as those attached to the Murray Bridge and Mannum hospitals and Coorong Health Service – being abolished.
But Dr Joyner said he did not expect that to be the case, and that he had applied for the role on the condition that the changes would not lead to a lower standard of patient care.
He hoped the LHN would be responsive to the HACs and community organisations; responsible in terms of finances, quality of care and safety; and resourceful, willing to consider different ways of delivering health services.
"I'm so old I can remember when we originally had country regions going back 30, 40 years ago," he said.
"Then hospitals were decommissioned and a central system was brought about.
"It's always a balance between local issues and ... the state-wide necessity to have a health system integrated and of good quality, with high standards.
"If we can have good local awareness of where our health dollars should be spent in a region, you'll hopefully get a better feeling of where money should be spent overall."
He expected the 10 LHNs would be able to share ideas more easily than the dozens of HACs.
Dr Joyner will act in an advisory capacity until July 1, 2019, when the health network will become fully operational.
He has provided GP, anaesthetic, surgical and obstetric services at Mannum since 1976, and is an expert in the treatment of skin cancer.
He has previously served as Country Health SA's director of emergency services and remains the chair of Adelaide to Outback General Practice.