Gunnedah hospital is appropriately staffed to provide care and treatment necessary for the local community, according to Peel Sector general manager, Catharine Death.
The positive assessment follows the NVI story on Gunnedah Rural Health Centre which risked not being viable due to a shortage of doctors in town. The centre has since recruited a new general practitioner (GP) whose role will include recruiting and retaining suitably qualified doctors in Gunnedah for the long-term.
Ms Death said there are seven local GPs and one GP registrar who provide visiting medical officer (VMO) services at Gunnedah Hospital. Additional VMOs also provide locum services when required.
Until recently, one more was also available but that GP has left the Gunnedah region.
Ms Death said VMOs not only provide care for patients admitted to Gunnedah hospital, they also participate in an on-call roster at the emergency department and provided an important link in the medical service chain.
“When a patient presents to the emergency department they are assessed by a registered nurse to determine the urgency and level of care required,” she said.
“If a patient is considered urgent, the GP VMO on-call is contacted and asked to attend. Specialist support is also available from the rural referral or tertiary hospitals and at times where more complex and urgent treatment is required patients are transferred.
“If the patient is considered less urgent, appropriately trained nursing staff can administer a range of treatments, in consultation with the GP VMO or the GP VMO may be called in if required. The majority of patients who present to rural district hospitals are categorised as less urgent.”
In contrast the general GP shortage, Gunnedah hospital’s wait times are far better than the state average as also reported in the NVI recently.
“The latest report shows that 88.6 percent of patients at Gunnedah Hospital left the ED within four hours of presentation. This greatly exceeds the NSW state target of 81 per cent,” Ms Death said.
Gunnedah Shire Council mayor Jamie Chaffey said maintaining adequate medical care for the community is an ongoing battle.
“Our population deserves high quality services in the region,” he said. “It’s a focus for us now and will continue to be in the future.
“Talking to different mayors in other areas, this is not a struggle we share alone.”