The Tumut Community Association is pushing for more specialist health services in the region, with the hope that the new investment into Snowy Hydro will spur government action.
President of the TCA Geoff Pritchard has written to the Murrumbidgee Local Health Service, state Member for Wagga Daryl Maguire, and Federal Assistant Minister for Health Dr David Gillespie, asking for help.
The only General Practitioner who is also an anaesthetist left his practice recently, and Mr Pritchard is pushing for a full-time surgeon and several anaesthetists for the region.
“There are visiting specialists from Wagga but we feel that a resident surgeon and several GP anaesthetists should be available as in the past,” he said.
“It is not good practice for procedures to be done on a drive-in drive-out basis.”
Mr Pritchard also believes Tumut should have a second resident obstetrician.
Chief Executive of the Murrumbidgee Local Health District Jill Ludford said the health service is actively campaigning for more General Practitioners for the region, particularly at the Tumut Family Medical Centre, which has recently seen several departures.
In the meantime, she said Visiting Medical Officers would continue to provide on-call anaesthetist and obstetrician services.
“I have been advised that increased surgical services are planned to commence at Tumut over the coming months,” she said.
“Tumut Health Service has seen an increase in activity over the past four months with the introduction of the in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation model. This model is working in conjunction with the Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital. This has been a wonderful initiative which has greatly supported the community of Tumut to return patients to their home town following surgery and illness.
“Tumut Health Service is currently completing their service planning, which is a very important process in assessing current and future needs.”
Daryl Maguire said that the issues raised are important to him and his best endeavours would be used to assist the community.
Dr Gillespie has not yet responded.
Mr Prichard said it was vital to keep the pressure up on those in power to ensure adequate health services for the region.
“Our large area should not be satisfied with anything less than three GP anaesthetists, a couple of GP obstetricians and at least one resident surgeon.
“Tumut has the only operating theatre in this large region and the nurses and paramedical are excellent first responders but simply are not skilled anaesthetists.
“One anaesthetist has to have proper time off/holidays/sick leave and it is a serious occupation health issue to expect otherwise. In any event when he/she is in theatre he/she is not available for outside emergencies.
“Driving anaesthetists and surgeons 100 km, in and out, from Wagga is fine up to a point but it is third world practice for them to leave their patients postoperatively. Additionally their travelling time is wasted from their medical duties.
“It appals me to see robotic surgery, and the likes, being done in the cities whilst rural area services are going backwards. The governments absolutely have to fix the problem and it is up to all of us to relentlessly badger them to do so.
“They say they can’t get doctors for the country but the government’s just shown they can alter the visa arrangements for certain industries, so I don’t see why they can’t alter the visa arrangements to make sure we get properly qualified people from South-East Asia and elsewhere settling here.”