Ballina District Hospital.
Ballina District Hospital. File

Ballina Hospitals GPs ‘expendable

THE Northern NSW Local Health District has denied it plans to stop using local doctors at Ballina Hospital.

Local doctors are employed on-call as Visiting Medical Officers on a fee-for-service basis.

The health district has advertised for a full-time Career Medical Officer to work on the wards during the week.

Northern NSW Local Health District director of medical services Michael Douglas said urgent needs outside these times will be met by locums and emergency staff.

"For 16 hours there is one doctor, then for eight hours there are two doctors," Dr Douglas explained.

"I am trying to get to a point where we can have 12 hours with one doctor and 12 hours with two doctors."

Ballina doctor Colin MacDonald said local GPs have asked for more doctors for "years" to meet increasing workloads.

"There were about seven or eight of us serving the hospital seven days a week, which was too much," Dr MacDonald acknowledged.

But he said the changes could mean more locums being flown in from other regions which would be less efficient than using local doctors with local knowledge.

He said if the hospital does not give local doctors the option to work it risks "alienating" them.

"We've been treated like we're expendable and that's not the way you treat a resource you really need," Dr MacDonald said.

"If they get the rid of us they may find in an emergency there is no one to care for patients and that's when someone will die."

Dr Douglas denied this and said the changes would "increase" resources in the emergency department.

He said local doctors are "welcome" to continue to treat their own patients at the hospital.



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