The board and executive of the Southern NSW Local Health District outlined a focus on their people and community at their annual public meeting.
Held in the Bega civic centre on Friday, October 5, the annual meeting was an opportunity for the public to hear about the LHD’s achievements over the past 12 months, and its goals for the year ahead.
It was also an opportunity to “hold us to account” chief executive Andrew Newton said during his address, with a panel Q&A session held as part of the meeting.
Around 40 people were in the audience on Friday afternoon. However, given the LHD executive and board members, various LHD staffers, guest speakers, and hospital and auxiliary volunteers all in attendance, the number of the general public in the room could've been counted on one hand.
Despite that, some astute questions were asked over particular challenges the health district faces, and future capacity of services and personnel at the South East Regional Hospital in particular.
Mayor Kristy McBain highlighted to the panel that provision of ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist services was “critical” for this region, with many young families having to travel and spend quite a bit to seek treatment.
Mr Newton said ENT and more specialist paediatric services were a key priority for the LHD. As with many of the challenges being faced, it came down to recruitment and attracting enough people to regional hospitals.
“We’re happy to be as innovative and accommodating as possible [in attracting specialists], but we also have to work in partnership with others,” he said.
“We often have to recruit a family – so we have to realise they often come with a spouse so if we can help look for employment for them, and look for good schools for the kids as well, that’s how we’re going to retain people.
“We have to look at the wider picture, not just the CV of the person who wants to come and do the job.”
We have to look at the wider picture, not just the CV of the person who wants to come and do the job.SNSWLHD chief executive Andrew Newton
Executive director of medical services Dennis Pisk said much the same in answering a question on the challenges facing the LHD.
He said the statewide figures point to an over-distribution of doctors, but that this was centred on Sydney and it remained a challenge to attract the right people to the South-East.
He spoke about continuing alliances with universities, attracting and retaining medical students through effective supervision of junior doctors.
”Our attractive lifestyle is something we have to sell, but it is also a question of what the spouse does, what schools are available,” Dr Pisk said.
“We’re slowly but surely getting there.”
In positive reports coming from the LHD, SERH’s orthopaedic department is now fully staffed – in fact according to Mr Newton there is now one more surgeon than previously.
Bega Valley Health Service general manager Wendy Hubbard said the emergency department is now also “fully staffed with locals” and the sub-acute unit is “bedding down well” six months after being opened
“Perhaps SERH didn’t have the greatest birth, but it really is now growing and developing into the potential it has,” Ms Hubbard said.