Deniliquin Pastoral Times

No-one will take me

Deni patient unable to find replacemen­t doctor

- By ZOE MCMAUGH

Andrew Harris has a long list of medical conditions that require ongoing attention.

For the last 18 months he’s been a patient at Deniliquin Central Clinic, which is now confirmed to be closing on Dr Ian Dumbrell’s retirement at the end of the year.

All patients of the clinic have been advised to call and register with other surgeries, but Mr Harris said none will take him.

‘‘I have called a few of them already, and it’s pretty bad,’’ he said.

‘‘One said no but try again in a few months, another said ‘I’m here on my own’ and then hung up.

‘‘I have even tried calling Moama, and it was no good there either.

‘‘I’ll have to just keep going to the hospital, where the very same doctors who cannot take me on will have to see me anyway.

‘‘I’ve been in Deniliquin three years and it took me 18 months to get in to Deniliquin Central Clinic as it was.’’

Mr Harris said adding an extra element of concern to the situation now is the COVID19 border closures, which require him to apply for and wait in hope for permission to go to Bendigo for regular therapy treatment in time for his appointmen­ts.

‘‘We need more doctors here (in Deniliquin),’’ Mr Harris said.

‘‘I have arthritis of the spine, a partial bulging disc, a narrowing of the stenosis (the openings between the bones in your spine), I have 50 per cent use of one arm which is also riddled with arthritis and in my good hand I recently suffered a severed radial.

‘‘I also have chronic obstructiv­e pulmonary disease and recently had surgery for a blocked bowel.

‘‘Even when I have told this to the doctor clinics, they still can’t take me.

‘‘It’s very frustratin­g and is causing me a bit of anxiety.’’

Deniliquin has long had a lack of doctors compared to community need.

It was one of the key messages the community expressed at the rural and regional health parliament­ary inquiry when an evidentiar­y hearing was held in Deniliquin in May.

Deniliquin doctor Marion Magee told the inquiry that local doctors were at breaking point.

She gave evidence saying Deniliquin doctors were working 120 hours a week, which was not only untenable for existing doctors but a deterrent for anyone being recruited to the region.

Crisis talks between doctors and Murrumbidg­ee Local Health District have been ongoing since before then, but is yet to yield satisfacto­ry results.

Mr Harris said he would like to see the local council and local members of parliament making more noise about the situation, and he called on all levels of government in increase their investment in improving local health services.

‘‘We can either get up as a community and have a go, or we can lie down and let them kick us,’’ he said.

‘‘We need more incentives, we need a rural medical school in or near Deniliquin and there must be a stipulatio­n that anyone who graduates from the program must commit to at least five years in rural medicine.

‘‘Failing that, I think if you offered a doctor a $50,000 cash incentive to work in rural areas you will have some positive responses.

‘‘We need to nail these doctors down. ‘‘I would also rather see Edward River Council invest money in to a new hospital than a retirement village which will have no access to doctors.

‘‘And we need to give pharmacist­s the powers to renew scripts, because what if you can’t get in to see a doctor and you can’t get your medicine?’’

Dr Dumbrell, who has lobbied for changes to ease the doctor crisis in Deniliquin over many years, will retire in December.

In a statement issued to the PASTORAL TIMES, he said he would negotiate with a practice sale broker and advertise the clinic’s sale in the medical press in the near future but that he felt is was ‘‘quite unlikely that a buyer or other doctors would take up the offer of sale’’.

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