Update: Western NSW Health responds
When it was announced on Thursday that Dr Nebras Yayha would return as VMO for Gulgong MPS some questions remained on the details of the appointment. The Mudgee Guardian reached out the Western NSW Health on clarification on the terms of the contract and if the Gulgong community could rest assured Dr Nebras would be here to stay.
A Western NSW Health spokesperson said that while the details of the contract are yet to be finalised, they expect the contract will be for the standard five years and reiterated the challenges they face recruiting appropriate staff.
"The Western NSW LHD and Dr Yayha are working collaboratively to sort out the final details. The intent is to bring the contract in alignment with GP VMO appointments across the LHD. A standard VMO contract is for 5 years," the spokesperson said.
"The contract will support safe and sustainable VMO services in to the future which includes managing fatigue and supporting appropriate work-life balance.
"Working 24/7 on-call, 365 days a year is neither sustainable for the doctor nor safe for the community and as such, efforts to recruit for an additional doctor/s are ongoing with the Rural Doctor's Network and the Local Health District.
"Recruiting staff to regional and rural areas remains a challenge, and NSW Health is always looking at the most effective way to attract staff to our rural hospitals."
The spokesperson cited a number of initiatives that the Health District have been a part of to attract doctors to regional parts of the district.
"145 interns were recruited in 2020 as part of the Rural Preferential Recruitment Program that supports junior doctors working their first two years in a rural location. This is almost double, from 75 interns in 2012," the spokesperson said.
"Funding of $1.6 million is provided to the Rural Doctors Network to run programs to attract doctors to rural areas including the NSW Rural Medical Officer Cadetship Program that provides up to 15 scholarships each year for NSW medical students interested in a career in rural NSW.
"50 training positions are provided across NSW under the NSW Rural Generalist Training Program, which is aimed at producing doctors who are general practitioners with advanced skills able to deliver services to rural communities."
Announced via press release on Thursday, an agreement has been reached that brings Dr Nebras Yahya back as a doctor at Gulgong MPS after a long negotiation process.
Dr Yahya will provide Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) services at the Gulgong Multipurpose Service.
Gulgong resident Sharelle Fellows who on Wednesday handed over the petition calling on a new doctor for Gulgong said it was welcome news.
"This is great news for the Gulgong community," she said.
"Gulgong welcomes the restoration of VMO rights for the wellbeing of the community. Telehealth was never intended to replace medical staff."
WNSWLHD Director of Rural Health and Medical Services Shannon Nott said, "This is great news for the Gulgong community. We have been committed to finding a solution at Gulgong, which is now a step closer," he said.
"The finalisation of the contract is underway and we hope to have Dr Yahya will be able to start working at the hospital by the mid November, 2020.
The WNSWLHD said it is still continuing to actively recruit to additional VMO roles at Gulgong MPS.
"The District welcomes expressions of interest or applications from any General Practitioner, including locally in Gulgong," Dr Nott said.
"It is the District's clear commitment to our communities to have medical officers available in all our healthcare facilities wherever possible."
"The local doctors and Gulgong MPS team are incredibly committed to their community. We've been able to keep the dialogue going in relation to medical services and that's had a great result.
Dr Nott said recruiting health professionals to regional, rural and remote areas is a challenge nationwide and not just confined to the Mudgee region.
"The WNSWLHD will continue to work with the Western NSW Primary Health Network, Mudgee Council and other local organisations to develop opportunities to attract more health professionals across the District," he said.
Ambulance change in Gulgong
In addition to the reappointment of Dr Nebras, Western NSW Health has announced that a modified bypass system has been put in place that will allow Gulgong ambulance paramedics to use their discretion when transporting patients as to the hospital they will be taken to.
'An agreement has been reached that will permit ambulance officers to use their clinical judgement in determining whether patients are transferred to Gulgong Multipurpose Service,' a release from WNSWLHD read.
'This agreement may be modified depending on the medical services available at Gulgong MPS in the future.
'WNSWLHD and NSW Ambulance have established a joint planning process focused on making sure the clinical care of local patients across the entire District is being delivered in the safest, most co-ordinated way possible.'