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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Rural doctors call for urgent meeting over “extreme lack” of consultation on new hospital

The Rural Doctors Association of NSW (RDANSW) has called for an urgent meeting with the NSW Premier and NSW Health Minister over an “extreme lack of consultation” with local doctors about the new Eurobodalla Hospital.

“This situation has become incredibly urgent” RDA NSW President, Dr Charles Evill, said.

RDA NSW President, Dr Charles Evill

“Since funding for the new hospital was announced in 2020, there has been an extended opportunity where local doctors could have been engaged in the consultation process – yet the planning has gone ahead without involving them.

“We have multiple examples of how a lack of meaningful consultation with local medical staff has had a detrimental impact of the successful operation of new regional NSW hospitals.

“A prime example is the new South East Regional Hospital at Bega, which has been plagued by discontent and operates using a high percentage of fly-in-fly-out doctors and specialists…at great cost to the people of NSW.

“Unfortunately, we can foresee exactly the same thing occurring with the new Eurobodalla Hospital.

“Dr Judy Toman is Chair of the Moruya Medical Staff Council and has been a GP Obstetrician in Moruya for 16 years.

“She and others have been sending detailed emails to NSW Health and the NSW Government over a long period of time, raising concerns with the new hospital development.

“These have been consistently ignored, and have often not even been given the courtesy of an acknowledgement of receipt.

“It is extremely concerning that Dr Toman and Dr Lachlan Brown – who are Chairs of the local Medical Staff Councils in Moruya and Batemans Bay respectively – were not invited to the revealing of the Eurobodalla Regional Hospital site at Moruya last week, attended by the NSW Premier.

“The absence of an invitation to attend this significant milestone is reflective of the current situation in the area, where there continues to be a lack of effective consultation with the local medical workforce regarding day-to-day operations.

“There have been significant and ongoing issues with NSW Health’s support for local maternity and paediatric services in the Eurobodalla Shire for some time.

“Local doctors, medical staff and the community have raised their concerns about these issues for years – but these have not been addressed satisfactorily.

“Several local doctors are on the brink of resigning their Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) services from Eurobodalla Hospital, and two long-term VMOs have already resigned effective February 2022.

“This includes Dr Michael Holland, the Eurobodalla Shire’s only contracted obstetrician, who will resign in February. He has stated that his relationship with NSW Health has become untenable.

“He has provided obstetric and gynaecology services in the Eurobodalla Shire for the past 19 years, and will be a huge loss to the community.

“Local GPs and medical staff have attended endless planning sessions around the new hospital – but very little detail has been provided, and much of what is proposed shows their recommendations have not been taken on board.

“As a result, the new hospital is looking very likely not to be what is really needed.

“We are very concerned that the lack of communication with local doctors by NSW Health appears to be part of a series of delaying tactics, making it too late for local medical staff to comment.

“While NSW Health might infer that local medical staff have been consulted, in reality this is far from the case.

“Even as at today, the new hospital plans aren’t easily obtainable by local VMOs.

“RDANSW recently met with the NSW Ministry of Health and National Rural Health Commissioner to raise issues that are not location specific, but which further demonstrate the disengagement between Local Health District managers and the local medical workforce in NSW rural areas.

“We have also written to the NSW Premier and NSW Health Minister asking for an urgent meeting regarding our concerns, and to call for a process that ensures genuine consultation with local doctors.

“Why NSW Health and the NSW Government would try to push through a new hospital development without consulting genuinely with doctors who will be working there beggars belief.

“We need to change this culture, as it is damaging healthcare service delivery in rural and regional NSW…at great cost to the people of NSW.”

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