Over the last few weeks, we have heard of four general practitioners resigning at Singleton Hospital, a hospital within the Hunter New England Local Health District. We have also heard that the Hunter New England Local Health District is the most complained about health district in NSW.
The Hunter New England Local Health District is the largest and most diverse health district in NSW. It encompasses an area from Lake Macquarie, to Tenterfield in the north of NSW and as west as Wee Waa. Its boundary encompasses a variety of hospitals, from the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle being a major tertiary hospital, a number of large regional referral (second-tier) hospitals such as Tamworth and Port Macquarie, to small ‘multi-purpose services’ in rural towns like in Merriwa and Bingara.
The general practitioners at Singleton Hospital cited “[w]orking long hours on-call in the emergency department has left us burnt-out and when we point these issues out with management it falls on deaf ears” as a reason for them standing down.
Smaller hospitals such as Singleton Hospital depend upon general practitioners to staff their emergency departments. Without general practitioners, the hospitals cannot function. The difficulty with this model is that the doctors staffing the emergency department often run their own private general practice. They may be on call at the same time they are treating patients in their practice. This can lead to a situation like in Singleton, where doctors are working around the clock between their own practices and the hospital. Ultimately, it can lead to catastrophic outcomes.
The issues highlighted above are currently being reviewed by the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote New South Wales. There have been over 700 submissions made to the Inquiry. The Gunnedah Shire Council and Mayor of Glen Innes Severn Council reported similar issues around inadequate staffing as those faced by Singleton. Gunnedah and Glen Innes hospitals fall within the Hunter New England Local Health District catchment.
The doctors at Manning Base Hospital in Taree made a submission to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Rural Health Outcomes. They highlighted poor resources, poor transfer times to bigger facilities and a loss of specialist practitioners as contributing to poor outcomes for patients in Taree.
The issues faced by many residents in the Hunter New England area in terms of healthcare are complex and multi-faceted. We know this because of our experience in pursuing claims within the area.
Get in touch with us
Our Newcastle-based solicitor Lidia Monteverdi knows and understands the issues faced by residents in the Hunter New England Local Health District. She is available to travel throughout NSW and can be contacted directly on (02) 4925 2996.
We have specialist medical negligence lawyers throughout NSW who will assess your case and provide personalised advice regarding your legal entitlements. Our medical negligence lawyers are located across NSW including in our offices in Parramatta, Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and Toronto.