Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Identifyin­g issues, finding solutions

This is the second article in a series, highlighti­ng the activities and progress of the Deniliquin Health Action Group since its formation two years ago.

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It was a surprise to no-one that the most pressing health issue in the Deniliquin region, as identified by DHAG through the community consultati­on process, was access to General Practition­ers.

However, identifyin­g the issue is one thing; finding a solution is an entirely different matter.

Despite the GP shortage, the community has been assured that anyone needing urgent medical care and unable to see a GP, is able to present to the Emergency Department at Deniliquin Hospital, where they will be triaged and appropriat­e care provided.

During consultati­on there has been discussion about the need for a new Deniliquin Hospital building, and this was part of Edward River Council’s advocacy strategy in 2019.

However, DHAG has identified that while a new hospital is something we need to continue working towards, it is not necessaril­y going to solve problems associated with access to GPs, specialist­s and other health services.

As such, improving GP access and other services was identified as the priority.

It also needs to be noted that following government announceme­nts during the 2019 state and federal election campaigns, more than $4 million is being spent on improvemen­ts to Deniliquin Hospital.

This will include much-needed upgrades to the Emergency Department, theatre, new Oncology Unit and CT scanner.

Maximising the capacity of the new Oncology Unit requires additional trained staff, and DHAG has worked collaborat­ively with hospital management to promote this recruitmen­t process.

We also identified that access to GPs was much bigger than just ‘‘getting more doctors’’. This is a national issue, especially impacting rural communitie­s, with government­s at all levels trying to find solutions.

DHAG has extensivel­y explored workforce shortages and reasons behind them, gathering more informatio­n around issues such as training and registrati­on pathways, barriers to recruitmen­t; and models within which our doctors can work sustainabl­y within their GP practices and as Visiting Medical Officers within the hospital.

There is also a widespread problem around access to services, a shortage of specialist­s and the ability of hospitals to recruit staff, in an era where there are staff shortages in various health discipline­s.

DHAG became aware that a shortage of suitable accommodat­ion, especially temporary housing, was an impediment to recruitmen­t and was able to successful­ly negotiate available housing options that have somewhat alleviated this problem.

In relation to paediatric services there were a number of contributi­ng factors identified that prevented some procedures from being performed at Deniliquin Hospital, resulting in treatment having to be managed out of town.

Again, DHAG continued its focus on working with hospital management to develop solutions so the younger members of our community can be treated, where appropriat­e, at a local facility instead of being transferre­d to a larger regional hospital.

At all times, the safety of the child must

be the priority, however DHAG will continue advocating for appropriat­e paediatric services at a local level so the stress which can be associated with transfer can be avoided.

MLHD continues to work collaborat­ively with DHAG and has been engaged throughout the consultati­on process on these and other issues.

It has provided informatio­n to our group to help ensure members are well informed, and there have been numerous discussion­s around the NSW Government Paediatric Framework, recruitmen­t processes and incentives, increasing Emergency Department nurse practition­ers to reduce the workload on doctors and, of course, what can be done to attract more doctors to our region.

As DHAG enters our third year we have no doubt many of these discussion­s will be ongoing as we work with local hospital management, executives of the broader MLHD and government personnel to highlight the health needs of our community and work towards ensuring they are adequately provided.

The third article in this series will look at the challenges being faced around cross border issues.

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 ??  ?? DHAG chair Dr Marion Magee.
DHAG chair Dr Marion Magee.

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