Gulgong MPS has been without a doctor since June. Regional towns in the Western NSW Health district are feeling the impacts of reduced services amid organisational decisions and challenges attracting suitably qualified professionals out west.
The Mudgee Guardian reached out to Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education and Federal Member for Calare Andrew Gee and Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government Mark Coulton to speak on the death of Gulgong woman Dawn Trevitt and the lack of suitable services in Gulgong, Coolah and other regional NSW towns.
Saunders open to mediation
State Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders said he's willing to mediate discussions between Western NSW Health and the doctor formerly contracted to Gulgong MPS, Dr Nebras Yahya to find a solution.
"Earlier this month I visited Gulgong and met with management of the medical centre, Dr Nebras Yahya and the residents who have started the petition. I gave each party my word that I will work towards achieving an outcome that is beneficial to everyone," Mr Saunders said.
"I am concerned by the stories coming out of Gulgong, and I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dawn Trevitt.
"Staffing and operational matters are the remit of the Western NSW Local Health District, and I have spoken to management within the LHD about this on multiple occasions, and outlined a desire to work with them towards the best possible outcome."
Saunders reiterated that while telehealth has its place, it's no substitute for an in-person doctor.
"The most recent conversation with LHD management was immediately after my meeting with the doctor and management at the medical centre," he said.
"Everyone concedes that telehealth and video technology has a place, however I think everyone would concede that seeing a doctor face-to-face is far more advantageous. I'm hoping to see a positive result for the people of Gulgong and surrounds."
Gee 'concerned greatly' by situation
Federal Member for Calare and Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education, Andrew Gee MP who was instrumental in the fight for the Gulgong MPS said residents must be heard.
"Mrs Trevitt was a longstanding and much loved member of the Gulgong community and also a well-respected local teacher who taught one of my staff members. I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Mrs Trevitt's family," Mr Gee said.
Mr Gee said he hasn't yet been briefed on what occured at Gulgong MPS but it 'concerned him greatly' to hear the MPS has no doctor.
"The community fought long and hard for the hospital and proper health care at Gulgong and we can't let these hard-won services slip away," he said.
"It is incumbent on the Western NSW Health District and the NSW Government to ensure that they have the contracts with doctors in place to properly staff our community health services and hospitals. The contract situation at Gulgong needs to be sorted out on the double, because it's not right for the community to be in a state of such uncertainty.
"Telehealth was certainly never intended to replace personal emergency care and shouldn't be used this way. It's not fair on patients or our dedicated health professionals."
Coulton shares Federal Government's position
Minister for Regional Health, the Hon Mark Coulton MP said he's hopeful that a solution can be found in the future to deal with the dearth of health coverage in regional NSW.
"I offer my sincere condolences to the family of the lady who has passed away. I am aware the NSW Minister for Health has asked for a full report from his department on the incident," Mr Coulton said.
"It is the Federal Government's position that telehealth is not a replacement for face-to-face consultation. Telehealth is a useful tool to support services across our regions and it has been shown to reduce barriers from isolation, travel time and cost. We need to find new ways to deliver primary care in regional areas and better harness the all the health resources available - and I am hopeful of work underway to find new ways to engage and deploy GPs that meet the unique circumstances of different regions. This is why we announced $3.3 million in last week's Federal Budget to look at new models that support local health care delivery.
"The Federal Government also wants to support improved health care services through rural generalist doctors, who can work in private practices and local hospitals to provide a greater range of care."
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