Murrumbidgee Local Health District CEO Jill Ludford, and Chair of the Board Gail Murphy, visited the Tumut Hospital on Friday to meet with staff and patients and see how the facility is going.
There are 33 facilities in the MLHD, including Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital (WWRRH) and community centres in Albury, and Ms Ludford and Ms Murphy make an effort to visit each one every year.
They said a highlight of their visit to Tumut was seeing the evidence of the successful rehabilitation program rolled out over the past few months. The new approach allows patients recovering from treatments in WWRRH to regain their strength closer to home, by having doctors drive in and out from Wagga to deliver appropriate care.
“That was really good this morning here at Tumut that we could talk to those people and see, by their faces, how happy they were,” said Ms Murphy.
“They’re close to family, they can see their children, they can spend more time with their spouses. We can read a brief that says it’s working but to actually see in person that it’s working is fantastic.”
“We met a beautiful young lady today,” added Ms Ludford.
“Beforehand her family were having to travel every day to see her in Wagga, and she was really missing her little children – so it was great to see her here.”
The drive-in drive-out method of the rehabilitation program allows patients to be treated in Tumut without resident specialists, something Ms Murphy and Ms Ludford acknowledge is a problem for all rural hospitals.
Attracting and retaining skilled staff is a challenge, but they said one thing Tumut does particularly well is support extra training for their current staff, as well as going out of their way to make the Tumut Hospital an inviting place to work.
The local nurses and management are renowned for providing encouragement and opportunities for staff development, both through financial scholarships, and through flexible rosters for those who need time to complete extra training.
“This site has a great record of things like: say there’s an Registered Nurse who shows an interest in midwifery and they want to become a midwife, they are fully supported. If there’s Enrolled Nurses that want to become Registered Nurses they support them in those areas,” explained Ms Murphy.
“Tumut works really, really hard to encourage [qualified health professionals] to come. Not everybody wants to come and work in a smaller community, so they have to think of ways to make themselves different to everybody else. There are challenges, but we know what the challenges are, and it’s great to see the ways the different sites are working to get people to come.”