IN A move that will anger and shock the community, Murrumbidgee Local Health District has confirmed it is no longer looking for a permanent doctor at the Leeton District Hospital.
Leeton Shire Council made contact with the MLHD following a public meeting last week that discussed ongoing issues with the hospital, particularly the lack of a permanent doctor at the facility.
It was at this meeting general manager Jackie Kruger located a rolling advertisement for a career medical officer (CMO) for Leeton hospital.
The wage being offered was called into question at this meeting.
However, it now appears a permanent doctor for the hospital has been taken off the table all together, shocking Leeton shire mayor Paul Maytom and council's general manager Jackie Kruger.
Council discovered this week through its own conversations that MLHD was no longer seeking a CMO for Leeton nor does it intend to in the future.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"The response we have received is that a CMO path is not on their (MLHD's) agenda for Leeton hospital," Mrs Kruger said.
"The feedback we have now received from MLHD is they are looking at filling (the gaps) with locums (as part of the on-call roster).
"We understand they have to use locums to do that, but we never thought in this whole process that locums would be the answer.
"This is the first we have heard of this."
Councillor Maytom questioned whether the MLHD was going to tell council it was no longer looking to recruit a CMO for Leeton had it not made the inquiry itself.
"Yet again we are getting mixed messages and the ball game changes," he said.
"We are given assurances by MLHD and we tell our community the MLHD is trying to get a permanent doctor for the hospital, only to have the story change again.
"Every discussion over the last few years with the MLHD has been about a CMO and the need for one here because that would then free up our doctors who are on the on-call roster."
Questions were raised at the recent public meeting in Leeton as to whether or not MLHD was offering enough money for the CMO position as the hospital and if that was a contributing factor to it not being filled.
In a statement to The Irrigator, MLHD said CMO remuneration in public hospitals was bound by the Health Professional and Medical Salaries (State) Award 2019.
"The CMO role for Leeton has been advertised for a number of years, without suitable applicants," the statement said.
"MLHD is working on a new model for medical coverage at Leeton hospital, which will be more competitive in the current market.
"In the meantime, locum doctors are being provided to reduce the hospital workload for the local GP visiting medical officers (VMOs) who currently admit and treat patients at Leeton hospital, and participate in an on-call roster for the emergency department."
Council said while it remained frustrated at this latest development, it would not be giving up working collaboratively with MLHD on finding a solution that works for the whole community.
It said keeping an open line of communication was key, as well as finding a way to ensure the shire is well serviced by the hospital.
In its statement, MLHD urged residents to continue to present to the hospital's emergency department for in cases that needed urgent assessment and treatment.
"Leeton hospital emergency department is also staffed by highly-qualified nurses with training in emergency care, and is equipped with the latest technology linking ED staff to an emergency-trained doctor via the remote medical consultation service for 'less urgent' cases," the statement said.
"For more serious presentations, the critical care advisory service links the medical team at the bedside to specialist medical staff to support diagnosis, treatment and, when needed, transfer to another hospital."
If you would like to share your story regarding an experience at the hospital contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0475 803 356.
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