Attracting doctors to the Clarence Valley should not be as hard as some people think, says Dr Peter Wirth.
Attracting doctors to the Clarence Valley should not be as hard as some people think, says Dr Peter Wirth.

GPs 'would consider regional move'

THE belief that doctors are not interested in leaving major cities for regional posts is a myth, according to the doctor at the centre of this week’s controversy surrounding Clarence Valley hospitals, Dr Peter Wirth.

Dr Wirth, who has spent much of his professional life in Melbourne, said he thoroughly enjoyed his two and a half years working as an emergency physician at Lismore Base Hospital and stints at Maclean and Grafton hospitals since early this year.

“I really had a blast,” Dr Wirth said. “Grafton is a lot like Lismore in that it’s a friendly place.”

He said he knew of several other emergency medicine specialists (EMS) and other doctors who would definitely consider a move to the North Coast for a secure tenure.

He also disputed claims that medical professionals preferred the social scene on offer from fellow doctors in the city.

“Most of my friends aren’t doctors,” he said.

Dr Wirth’s comments came in response to claims by the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) this week that it was ‘difficult to recruit EMSs due to their general preference to work in larger emergency departments (EDs)’.

Dr Wirth said this may have been the case a few years ago but things had changed.

In a statement earlier this week the NCAHS said it had previously sought to recruit an EMS to be the director of the GBH ED but no suitable applicants came forward to apply for that position at the time.

“As a consequence, NCAHS has seconded an EMS from Coffs Harbour Base Hospital to work for two days per week in the GBH ED to provide support to the other medical staff,” the statement said.

Dr Wirth said that if the position was advertised, he certainly would apply.

Meanwhile, NCAHS CEO Chris Crawford has lashed back at Dr Wirth’s report, which became public in The Daily Examiner yesterday.

The report criticised the medical staffing practices at Grafton Base Hospital saying, among other things, that overspending on locum doctors at a rate of $160 an hour was a misuse of health funds.

“Dr Wirth’s document contains multiple errors and unsubstantiated claims that adversely reflect on Visiting Medical Officers (VMOs) and other staff,” he writes.

“His claim about the amount of remuneration paid to the Maclean Hospital VMOs and to Locum Career Medical Officers (CMOs) at Grafton Base Hospital (GBH). Both figures are plainly wrong.”

Mr Crawford did not supply the correct figures.

“The answer is not to use Resident Medical Officers, who are junior training doctors, in the GBH ED,” Mr Crawford continues.

“The answer is to recruit more permanent CMOs.

“NCAHS is currently doing this and since the area-wide campaign started, eight additional permanent CMOs have been recruited. A second stage of this campaign is about to commence.

“Where the Wirth document contains useful suggestions, these will be considered for implementation. Where it contains adverse claims, relevant VMOs and staff will be given the opportunity to respond to them.”

Should an Emergency Medicine Specialist be appointed to manage the Grafton Base and Maclean District emergency departments?

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