Rural Doctors Association Weigh-In On Council Sell-Off

Filed in Just In by September 9, 2020

Dr Charles Evill, president of the Rural Doctors Association of New South Wales described Upper Hunter Shire Council’s sale of doctor’s accommodation as disastrous and strongly recommended they change their approach.

See related stories: Council Plans to Kick Doctors Out and Murrurundi Doctor Disillusioned After Council Sells Doctor’s House.

“It is in my opinion, very much in the interests of medical cover in Scone and the community more generally, to maintain the availability of this sort of thing and I would have thought that Council as a representative of the community would have a vested interested in maintaining it,” said Dr Evill.

“And they can’t really make complaints about having to do maintenance because that is what the landlord is supposed to do anyway,” he said.

“I would most strongly encourage the Council to reconsider their thoughts about selling those accommodation properties, unless they have a clear plan to replace the capacity to enable people to come to town,” Dr Charles Evill said.

In towns where Council has already sold the accommodation, Dr Evill assessment was clear.  

“In general principle, that is a disastrous approach,” he said.

“It’s very much in the interests of the towns which the Council’s represent to maintain the capacity for temporary accommodation.

“In principle the provision of subsidised housing at short notice is very useful in attracting and keeping doctors in town.

“Communities generally speaking are very supportive, that’s never an issue – if you’re prepared to go and work there they will love you.

“The Council and other community organisations need to be onside and also be as welcoming as possible and make sure there aren’t obstacles for someone coming in.

“When they (doctors) are new to town it’s a nerve racking time and when we put overseas trained doctors out, they are like a fish out of water socially and culturally speaking, they also have a whole lot of family and visa issues and the last thing you want to do is load them up with worrying about finding a house, it’s a ridiculous load to put onto someone coming into a difficult situation.

“Definitely the Council getting behind accommodation support is a key factor in making it attractive,” he said.

Dr Evill said attracting and keeping doctors in regional areas was about a community approach, the Council and health organisations such as NSW Health.

“Globally NSW Health has an issue with losing doctors from regional areas and a quite rapid contraction of services available; Murrurundi 20 years ago had a functioning operating theatre and you could have babies there…the need hasn’t disappeared so it is difficult to understand how it has reached a situation where there is effectively half a doctor in town,” said Dr Evill.

“Merriwa is also under the pump a little bit, they built quite a nice doctor’s practice within part of the health departments rebuilding quite a few years ago, which I think is subsidised by Hunter New England,” he said.

“It’s less probably about the money…but if you dull down the hospital so that you can’t manage emergencies in there or you can’t use the hospital to do minor skin surgery because it doesn’t fit, you stop doing obstetrics, then you reduce the level of support available for admitted patients and they are sent away – all of those things make it look less interesting for a doctor who wants to do a range of things,” Dr Charles Evill said.

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