The Bega Valley community has reacted with outrage to the news a local surgeon’s contract at the South East Regional Hospital will not be renewed.
On Thursday, the Bega District News reported Chris Phoon had been given eight days’ notice that his contract will not be renewed after Tuesday.
The head of the hospital’s orthopaedic department said the decision was made “due to a difference in core values” after constantly pushing for improvements in patient care, management accountability and professional standards.
The Southern NSW Local Health District was asked what the reason was behind the decision not to renew Dr Phoon's contract, but it declined to comment.
On Friday morning, a petition was started by Peter Bamford of Pambula to “save our Dr Phoon”. By 3.30pm it had already been signed by over 300 supporters.
“I don’t know how quickly we’d be able to replace him with someone of his calibre, if at all,” Mr Bamford said.
“It’s just going to extend waiting hours.”
Mr Bamford’s 21-year-old son has had a bad shoulder for a few years and the sixth time it was dislocated he had to wait five months before having a consultation at the hospital.
The young man’s father said he did not blame the surgeons at the hospital for the long wait, but was concerned wait times could be extended if Dr Phoon left the facility.
Mr Bamford said his petition hit 100 signatures in a little over an hour after being launched, which is reportedly a remarkable response.
“Change.org just emailed me to let me know that less than 15 per cent of petitions achieve this," he said.
When the story was published on the BDN’s Facebook page on Thursday, there was a massive outpouring of support for Dr Phoon by both community members and past patients:
Amazing surgeon! Dr Phoon you did wonders for my sons knee reconstruction and meniscus repair so he can now play basketball at a competing level on a daily basis!
Dr Phoon is an amazingly skilled and compassionate doctor. His departure from the hospital is going to be such a loss for the entire shire! He operated on our daughter’s elbow and we couldn't be more grateful. He worked around our schedules for follow ups and showed such empathy towards our daughter.
Dr Phoon is great surgeon actually the best I've ever had. I have had a few over the years because of my passion of racing motorcycles. I just had a plate inserted on my tiba and a bit of rebuilding of my tiba platue he had me walking and back at work in 6 weeks.
Only way to get through to management here is for the healthcare staff to stand together like Dr Nott is doing… something along the lines of we want it like this and nothing is happening at this hospital until the changes are made.
Dr Christopher Phoon operated on my younger sister’s knee after tearing her ACL and Meniscus and I wouldn't have wanted any other orthopaedic surgeon to have done it! He is an extraordinary man who is amazingly talented, compassionate and caring wanting only the best for his patients. He made sure in the procedure that my sister would be able to fully recover and go back to her normal lifestyle before her incident.