DOCTOR SHORTAGE: The president of the Rural Doctors of NSW claimed that on August 8 and 9, 2020, a lack of medical officers at Ballina Hospital’s emergency department meant cases had to be referred to Lismore. Photo: Cathy Adams
DOCTOR SHORTAGE: The president of the Rural Doctors of NSW claimed that on August 8 and 9, 2020, a lack of medical officers at Ballina Hospital’s emergency department meant cases had to be referred to Lismore. Photo: Cathy Adams

'Diabolical' situation for health care in Northern NSW

"DIABOLICAL".

That's how the president of the Rural Doctors Association of NSW has described the shortage of general practitioners and specialists due to the border closure with Queensland.

Dr Charles Evill said the shortage of qualified medical staff meant that emergencies usually handed at Ballina Hospital were being sent on to Lismore Base Hospital.

"The flow-on effects from the border closure are fairly diabolical as staffing at local hospitals is being compromised," he said.

"Over the weekend there was no medical officer in the emergency department at Ballina Hospital, they have been unable to get any locums so admissions were on bypass, everything went out to Lismore.

"I have been in touch with people who manage the staffing and locate doctors for locum work and recruiters are having a terrible time."

As a locum GP based in Ballina with emergency medicine expertise, Dr Evill said this unfair situation cannot be allowed to continue.

"We have cross-border specialists who live on the Gold Coast and come to Ballina or Lismore for their specialist clinics (but are now) unable to do so," he said.

"I was told by a staffing officers there are 12 senior specialists who normally come across to NSW, now four aren't coming.

"This is not only impacting on doctors, my information is across all health professionals the numbers affected are in the hundreds and this has further impact on allied heath services, not only medical staff."

Dr Evill said Tenterfield District Hospital was in "absolute turmoil".

"They refer a lot of cases to Toowoomba, Stanthorpe and Warwick and now can't get people across there," he said.

"For example, someone with macular degeneration will be incredibly anxious they cannot get their eye injections."

Dr Evill said Lismore Base Hospital usually referred intense procedures dealing with cranial bleeding or serious post-natal complications to Gold Coast University or John Flynn hospitals.

"Lismore doctors are now having people go to them who normally see a GP across the border so they are getting snowed under," he said.

The Northern NSW Local Health District and Hunter New England Health District have been contacted for comment.



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