SINGLETON Hospital has seen three GPs depart over unsafe workplace practices with one Singleton doctor having worked an alarming 100 hours in one week.
The exit shows doctors are at breaking point and the growing demand for medical and emergency services in a burgeoning population is taxing an already strained hospital system in Singleton and throughout the Upper Hunter.
This exodus comes on the heels of a Parliamentary Inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote NSW.
Dr Bob Vickers who worked at Singleton Hospital before resigning last November said working 60 hours a week was common and he had at times worked around 100 hours a week.
“The problem is worsened by the fact myself and othe other two doctors who left were contractors so we weren’t entitled to sick leave and those kinds of benefits,” Dr Vickers said.
“We had to work long hours on-call in obstetrics, in the emergency department and it left us burnt-out. When we pointed to these issues, nothing was resolved“ he said.
Shooters Fishers Farmers candidate for the Upper Hunter Sue Gilroy said she had talked to medical staff in Muswellbrook Hospital to ascertain the main concerns and was hoping to do the same at Singleton Hospital this coming week.
Ms Gilroy said doctors and nurses should be fully supported and have all the essential resources pertaining to their work.
Labor’s Upper Hunter candidate Jeff Drayton said GPs leaving due to burnout over workload is an alarming indicator of the state of local health services today.
“We can’t afford to lose any doctors at Singleton Hospital. It’s a sign of a system in crisis. It is simply not fair to expect doctors to shoulder the burden of long-term under-investment in our hospitals through intolerable working conditions,” Mr Drayton said.
“And it is a disgrace that locals miss out on the healthcare they need when doctors aren’t available. People are forced to endure unacceptable waiting times, travel long distances, or go without the medical treatment and care they need,” he said.
Investment in health services has barely kept up with the demands of the local population. A growing population from new residential housing estates such as Huntlee near Branxton means people will travel to their closest hospital in Singleton, exacerbating a precarious hospital system.
Susan Heyman, Executive Director, Rural and Regional Health Services, said she wanted to assure the community Singleton Hospital continues to have medical coverage.
“There are currently nine GPs actively participating in the on-call roster at Singleton Hospital, and we are grateful for their continued dedication. We are investigating options with locum agencies to better support those GPs who continue to provide their services to the hospital,” Ms Heyman said.
“Recruiting doctors and nursing staff to regional areas is a challenge faced not only by Hunter New England Health but all of Australia,” Ms Heyman said.