Gunnedah Shire Council is continuing to work with health representatives within the state and community to look at answers for GP and health service shortages.
A report to Council this week showed NSW Rural Doctors Network are now on Step 3 in the development of a strategy that will include actions to attract and retain GPs.
The report to Council by Gunnedah Shire Council General Manager Eric Groth noted that as part of Step 3, the Rural Doctors Network NSW (RDN NSW), who have been engaged by Council to develop the strategy, had formed a working group. The working group includes representatives of RDN NSW, the Primary Health Network, GP Synergy, Hunter New England Local Health District and Gunnedah Shire Council.
The group has already met three times to work towards the strategy before they consult service providers next month.
Gunnedah Shire Mayor Jamie Chaffey said the report to council included the results of Steps 1 and 2 – A State of Play report outlining the current situation, and a survey of the Gunnedah Shire Community.
“Both of these very revealing reports were submitted as public documents to the NSW Government Upper House Inquiry into Rural Health Services,” Cr Chaffey said.
“They paint a clear picture of the appalling state of affairs in the availability of doctors in our community. The State of Play report shows the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) recommended ratio is one GP for every 750-1000 residents. In January this year, the doctor to patient ratio in Gunnedah Shire was about one GP for every 2670 residents.
“The report showed we do not have enough GPs and this is in turn impacting on Gunnedah Hospital services. It recommends 13 full-time GPs as a starting point.
“Added to this are the results of the community survey carried out in March which are, quite frankly, distressing. Many of the 711 respondents – just under 6% of our population – also answered the survey on behalf of their families, making this survey widely representative of our community.
“Page after page of responses give an extremely clear message. To quote from the report: ‘The great majority expressed confusion, frustration, anger and in some cases disgust with the poor level of service currently available in Gunnedah for the residents of the Shire. This was true even among the minority who considered that their needs were being met or who had not used any of the services in the previous year’.”
“Our previous pleas to the NSW and Federal governments to address this urgent issue have not resulted in any practical answers, so we have taken this step of engaging the Rural Doctors Network NSW to help navigate the problems and offer some solutions.
“The health providers we do have can’t sustain the load on their own. We intend to continue to work with the RDN NSW to help resolve these problems.
“While we can look forward to a new hospital in 2025, we can’t sit back and ignore the very real health concerns our community is facing now, and we need to be assured that when our new hospital does open, it will be fully staffed.”