Local health services have been pursuing government avenues to get a full-time anaesthetist in Tumut for months now, and so far have come up against brick walls.
Some, including former surgeon Geoff Pritchard and Local Health Advisory Committee Chair Hansie Armour, have asked the question: is it time for industry to get involved?
“With the expansion of the major timber industries, Snowy Hydro, and adventure tourism in this very large region it is vital that there is a skilled medical service as it was in in the past,” said Mr Pritchard in a letter to Tumut’s two largest businesses, Visy and Snowy Hydro.
“The Murrumbidgee Local Health District has advertised for a resident surgeon and GP anaesthetists with no success and so it appears that the major industrial players need to come together to take the issue to a high political level.
“Tumut hospital is slated for replacement and it is vital that the new hospital and its services will be adequate not only for present needs but also for future growth.”
However, a spokesperson from Snowy Hydro told the Times it will not be getting involved in the efforts to secure an anaesthetist.
“The provision of healthcare services is really a matter for the State Government,” they said.
Up until this year, Snowy Hydro was the major sponsor of the SouthCare Helicopter, and have said they are looking for other ways to support the local region through funding community services.
However, they remain vague on what exactly this would look like, and whether or not it would involve health services in Tumut and surrounds.
“Snowy Hydro has a long and proud track record of supporting local communities and organisations across the Snowy Mountains region,” they said.
“We are currently looking at new community initiatives to support in the place of our ending partnership with the SouthCare helicopter.”
As for Visy, Chair of the Visy Community Consultative Committee, James Hayes, said that the company has traditionally seen advocating for health services as being part of their role, although not necessarily in regards to the current crisis of there being no local anaesthetist.
“When Jean-Yves Nouaze was the manager out there [until six months ago], he was very concerned about the fact that there wasn’t a doctor on call on the weekend,” he said.
“He was a strong advocate for improved medical services. Tumut’s an industrial town, and a 24-hour town too; industry is going all the time. You need that level of care in case something does go wrong. We’ve got a pretty good safety record really, but that doesn’t mean there’s not going to be another bus crash or an industrial accident or a bushfire.
“I can’t speak for them, but I would imagine the current [Visy] management would also be keen to maintain a strong medical presence in Tumut.”
He also pointed out that now that local government is moving out of Administration, council could play a role in solving certain health issues.
“Certainly the new council will be working very hard towards the new hospital and improving medical services for the whole Snowy Valleys, and Tumut being the major centre we’ll work towards getting 21st Century medical care – that’s not saying the care we get now isn’t really good, it’s just that they are working with equipment and a building that’s anachronistic.
“I certainly think industry has a role to play in the advocacy area, and in support.”