DR Conford, an orthopaedic specialist in Newcastle wanted to make a difference for country patients and was inspired to establish a clinic at Scone last year.
Already he has helped more than 100 Sconeites, who have been able to have their surgeries in the comfort of their hometown, surrounded by their family and avoiding a costly and time consuming hospitalisation in Newcastle.
Dr Conford and his wife Megan travel from their Newcastle home, to Scone once every four weeks so locals can see a specialist without having to travel.
“Part of why we come here is because I see the difficulty in rural people having access to healthcare, it’s a problem for rural Australia in terms of encouraging specialists into the rural areas. I think it’s difficult for people to travel two hours to see a specialist and Scone’s not even the worst of it, if you go further west it gets worse,” Dr Conford said.
“As far as I know I’m the only orthopaedic surgeon that comes here, there used to be another gentlemen here but he retired one or two years ago, so there’s a bit of a gap there,” he said.
“Megs and I wanted somewhere we could get away and spend a night away from our four kids at home. It’s a beautiful location but there was also a need here. We wanted to go somewhere where people were going to be appreciative, where it was going to make a difference,” said Dr Conford.
Meg Conford said she loves seeing the difference it makes to local people.
“I’m doing the secretarial work, so I’ve had that back and forth discussion with patients and they’re really grateful and just really lovely.”
“I see the benefit of what we’re doing when it is a lot of people with mobility issues, where maybe their daughter or son is driving them to the appointment and they have their own mobility aids. I just think wow, Lachlan’s just saved them a two-hour drive, an appointment and a two-hour drive back, that’s a whole day,” she said.
Dr Conford travels to Scone outside of his full time schedule, which involves major trauma surgeries at the John Hunter Hospital and hip and knee replacements at the Lingard Private Hospital.
“It was initiated by the General Practitioners (GPs) . . . a friend of a friend was interested in having people come to Scone to provide a service to the community. At that stage I was reasonably soon out of training. I finished my fellowships three years ago and when discussions started and things have grown from there,” Dr Conford said.
“I see a lot of people with arthritis and knee arthritis, as well as a lot of injures from people around the horse studs, animal handling related injuries . . . it’s always booked out,” he said.
Dr Conford said the newly renovated Scott Memorial Hospital is a great place to work, with the potential to attract more health specialists to Scone.
“They’ve recently renovated the theatres at Scone Hospital, they’re really nice now,” Dr Conford said.
“Once there’s a critical mass then people can move here and set up permanent practice, but prior to that you’re attracting people that come in for a period of time then go back to where they reside,” he said.
“If the local community and the local GPs are supportive of a viable and attractive environment, that person [specialist] can develop an ongoing relationship with the community,” he said.
“For example, the GPs have been really good in following up the post-op wounds from my surgeries, whereas normally I would do that myself but I’m back in Newcastle, so the GPs are happy to see those patients for their post-op appointments. It’s that stuff that would need to be ongoing.
“If the community wants it and there’s participation and buy-in from everybody, then it’s a win-win,” said Dr Conford.