Bega orthopaedic surgeon given week's notice contract won't be renewed

An orthopaedic surgeon at the South East Regional Hospital has been told not to return to work next week in what he calls payback for his advocacy work at the facility. 

Chris Phoon said he was given eight days’ notice that his contract will not be renewed after Tuesday. 

“I was informed by the acting general manager and the acting director of medical services the decision was made due to a difference in core values,” he said. 

After being elected by his colleagues as head of the hospital’s orthopaedic department three years ago, he constantly pushed for improvements in patient care, management accountability and professional standards. 

“This decision is payback, and a message to other doctors who wish to confront hospital management,” Dr Phoon said. 

“It is in particular a response to being outspoken on stripping the hospital of its rural contract status.” 

His colleagues at the hospital, orthopaedic surgeons Matthew Nott and Krishnankutty Rajesh, say they are furious at the way Dr Phoon has been treated by the hospital’s administration.

“I’ve never seen such a poor decision made in 20 years working with various administrations on the South Coast,” Dr Nott said.

They both said Dr Phoon was extremely competent, with excellent surgical technique and looked after his patients very well. 

“We have never been contacted by the administration with any concerns about Chris’s performance,” Dr Rajesh said. 

He said orthopaedics were the most in-demand service at the hospital, with between 200-300 patients currently on the waiting list. 

“We are struggling to support the numbers of patients with three orthopaedic surgeons, but we will have to manage with two,” Dr Rajesh said. 

Dr Nott said “in protest and dismay after a lot of consideration”, if Dr Phoon’s contract is not renewed he will cancel all his operations at SERH for March. 

“If we lose him it’s a loss for our community,” Dr Nott said. 

Dr Phoon is now being forced to look at leaving the Bega Valley, a prospect he is not looking forward to. 

“I’ll have to pull my kids out of school and we’ll have to move. My wife will have to quit working as a GP on Carp St,” he said.  

“I will find work, but Bega won’t find a surgeon to replace the kind of work I do.”

The Southern NSW Local Health District’s response can be read here.

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