A New South Wales parliamentary inquiry is being warned remote and rural communities are experiencing doctor shortages because some GPs don’t want to work in public hospitals.
- Inquiry hears remote and rural GPs do not want to work in public hospitals
- Broken Hill targeted by anti-vaccination campaign by Clive Palmer
- Country residents share stories of long waits for care and missed diagnoses
The organisation Rural and Remote Medical Services (RARMS) has given evidence at the inquiry which is examining challenges with accessing medical services in remote, rural and regional areas.
The chief executive Mark Burdack told today’s hearing some towns in western NSW have doctors who are not willing to work in the local hospital.
“There are examples of hospitals where the culture is not supportive of having general practitioners in those communities in the hospital itself,” Mr Burdack told the inquiry.
“They do not feel that they are well supported or their clinical skills are properly recognised or the culture of the hospital is such that it is not a pleasant place to work.”
The inquiry heard that it should be a red flag to New South Wales Health and local management if medical staff leave a community.
The inquiry has been told a lot of state and federal money had been spent on trying to recruit doctors to remote and rural communities, but not enough was done to encourage them to stay.
Mr Burdack said when doctors arrive in some of these towns, they are confronted by the reality of services being withdrawn, inadequate infrastructure, spouses being unable to find jobs and limited education opportunities for their children.
Silver City targeted
The Mayor of Broken Hill Darriea Turley also appeared before the inquiry to give evidence about the challenges faced by communities in the state’s far west.
She gave evidence about her anguish when the city was targeted by an anti-vaccination campaign led by mining magnate and political operative Clive Palmer.
The Upper House committee heard that flyers were sent to residents, urging them not to get COVID-19 vaccines.
“By his groups to try and get people to stop vaccinations and, you know, the misinformation that he was leading” Ms Turley told the inquiry.
The ABC has contacted Mr Palmer for a response.
Patients waiting years
Today is the inquiry’s 12th hearing and many witnesses have previously given evidence about the need to drive hours or wait weeks and months to access GP and specialists appointments.
Ms Turley gave examples of melanomas not being removed, people being unable to access medical services in South Australia during COVID-19 border closures and long waits for specialist appointments.
She said one local resident received a referral in 2019 and was told they would potentially not be seen by a specialist until 2023.
“They were told by a specialist clinic that they would be moved down the list because of priorities,so it may not be until might be 2023 and I want to say is this acceptable under our health service,” Ms Turley told the inquiry.
Representatives from Walgett and Wilcannia have given evidence about what they say is a withdrawal or lack of frontline services.
Medical services were flown in to support the towns during the recent COVID-19 outbreaks.
Walgett nurse Elizabeth Kennedy shared her and her colleagues’ experiences, of how they worked around the clock to carry out testing.
She told the inquiry that she had been informed beds at their local hospital would have to be temporarily shut in the next few months because of staff shortages.
“That’s how bad it is.”
A lack of mental health services in Wilcannia and other isolated towns has also been raised.
Wilcannia resident Aunty Monica Kerwin told the inquiry that her community needed a dedicated mental health support worker.
She said a lack of these services has compounded existing deficiencies.
“People are are dying, not from COVID … from all the other things that they’ve been denied” she told the inquiry.
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