BONALBO residents remain in medical limbo as the local health network struggles to find a permanent doctor for the township.
Long-time resident GP Trevor Tierney retired last December after 30 years caring for the Upper Clarence community through his private practice and the hospital.
The Northern NSW Local Health District began advertising earlier last year but still has not received a formal application.
A spokesman for the network said a general practice surgery had been established on the health campus grounds while maintaining an around-the-clock emergency department service for Bonalbo and surrounding areas, staffed by visiting medical officers.
"Bonalbo residents requiring treatment will receive 24-hour ED nursing care, care from an ED medical practitioner as well as general practice consultations," the spokesman said.
"At this stage no formal applications for that position have been received for the permanent hospital medical officer.
"However, (the network) is in conversation with medical practitioners who are interested in relocating to Bonalbo to establish a GP practice and is encouraging them to apply for a visiting medi- cal officer position at the hospital.
Local residents have been actively involved in the process but fear the hospital, pharmacy and nursing home could close if a permanent doctor is not found.
Concerned resident Liz Andrews says the community was losing patience.
"What really annoys me is the department's lack of forward planning; I mean here's a doctor who's been here for 30 years. Did they expect that he'd stay for another 30," she asked.
"I just find it absolutely incredible that provisions hadn't been made (by) the department to put a process in place years ago to make a gradual change- over. I worked in government in Queensland for 30 years before coming here and every department had a forward plan and made provisions for such things.
"The consequences for our aging community cannot be underestimated. Is it not the most economically viable position and the best budgetary practise for government to provide a suitable qualified doctor to work permanently in Bonalbo?"