Mike Kelly says health service has ‘taken another hit’; supports Bega surgeon

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Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly has said the Far South Coast “can’t afford” to lose one of Bega’s respected surgeons. 

He was commenting on the case of Chris Phoon, who was given eight days’ notice that his contract at the South East Regional Hospital (SERH) will not be renewed after Tuesday. 

While the Southern NSW Local Health District (LHD) was asked what the reason was behind the decision not to renew Dr Phoon's contract, it declined to comment

But Dr Phoon, the head of the hospital’s orthopaedic department, said the decision was made “due to a difference in core values” after he constantly pushed for improvements in patient care, management accountability and professional standards.

On Friday, Dr Kelly released a statement saying the local health services had “taken another hit” as a result of Dr Phoon being told not to return to work next week. 

“Our community can’t afford to lose his services,” Dr Kelly said. 

“It is my understanding that there have been no problems raised about Dr Phoon’s medical skills. He is regarded by his colleagues at the hospital as an extremely good doctor who is also great with his patients.

“Most disappointingly, it would appear that there has been no attempt to sit around a table and resolve any perceived issues.”

The MP said orthopaedic surgeons were the most in-demand service at the hospital and it had been tough to get orthopaedics to the South Coast, with a recently advertised position only receiving one applicant.

“I understand that one option to deal with losing Dr Phoon would be to replace his position with locums - this would be an unnecessary and expensive way to proceed,” Dr Kelly said.  

“It also penalises patients in terms of follow up.”

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was approached for comment on the decision to cancel Dr Phoon’s contract and was also asked if he was satisfied with management’s handling of SERH since it opened last April.

However, an office spokesperson said as the local service provider, the Southern NSW LHD was the relevant area to respond.

Dr Kelly said he was hoping to organise a meeting with Mr Hazzard in the coming weeks.

“I want to make it clear that this is not about politics, I’m sure my state government colleagues will be just as concerned about this matter as I am,” Dr Kelly said.