One of the doctors from the Rural Health Centre has clarified her position regarding duties at Gunnedah Hospital, following concerns raised by other GPs that there are no doctors from the centre working at the hospital or on the emergency department (ED) roster.
Dr Laboni has been working at the centre since January and she said because she was currently a registrar and continuing her training, she could not work in the hospital or ED unless she had a supervisor who also worked there.
Since the resignation of her supervisor Dr Deane from the hospital recently and no other GP from the health centre currently working on the roster, due to training policies, she said she could not participate without supervision.
In addition, Dr Laboni lives in Tamworth and travels to Gunnedah to work in a full-time role, four days a week. She also has a three-year-old child so she said to be on-call anyway would be difficult for family reasons.
Dr Deane still works part-time in the health centre and still supervises Dr Laboni while there. Because she is near the end of her training, however, she said he doesn’t have to work alongside her full time in the practice, but is only a phone call away if she needs any advice.
When Dr Laboni finishes her training on May 25, she will be qualified to work unsupervised at the hospital.
However, she said to join the on-call roster would remain a challenge because she would have to travel and would not be able to give appropriate care in the ED. She added that she would also be required to stay overnight and leave her child at home.
Dr Laboni said she saw 20-24 patients a week – and about 30 before Dr Arash recently arrived – and that the care offered in the Rural Health Centre was valued by the community.
She also said that just because a GP was not working in the hospital or in emergency, it did not mean there was no continuity of care.
“What we are doing here is also important,” she said.
Dr Laboni has experience in the ED at Adelaide’s Flinders Medical Centre and in Bangladesh.
When asked about working 24 hour shifts in the ED, she said it was very “tiring” and “not safe”.
Talks are ongoing between the centre and Hunter New England Health over hospital duties.
There have been claims of unfairness and issues with flexibility from the centre, however some on-call doctors from outside the centre say they are feeling the pressure as not everyone is participating.
The health centre’s Dr Habib, who said he was disappointed with recent comments from a medical colleague that he claimed failed to acknowledge the “massive time and efforts” given at the centre, said he believed there needed to be more flexibility on all sides.
The hospital and health centre management say they hope to reach a resolution.
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