Four General Practitioners have walked out of Singleton Hospital citing unsafe workplace practices. 

The exodus of GP’s comes at a time when rural and region health services are under the microscope of a parliamentary inquiry looking into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services.

NSW Health Services Union Secretary Gerard Hayes says there needs to be a new strategy to engage health workers to rural and regional areas.

“Until we get to see more clinicians and more health practitioners regionally, there will be people just transferring to the city. This would take away real serious clinical support out of that region,” Mr Hayes said.

“This is a very scary situation if you have a loved one or a family member who requires emergency support and there is a drain in terms of medical support. That becomes very, very problematic, and noting that Singleton is an hour away from Newcastle, every minute counts when a medical emergency arises.” 

In a recent submission to the parliamentary inquiry, the Rural Doctors Association of NSW says that staff retention is the major issue affecting the workforce.

“Attempting to care for patients in rural areas has become less and less attractive over the past 2 to 3 decades. The lived experience is that there is a lack of understanding within New South Wales Health about how the day-to-day business of patient care gets done.”

“At the point of care, there are many issues which appear to make the job more difficult and slow. When problems are identified the response is glacial or non-existent.”

“Doctors, nurses and administrative staff working on patient care in the hospitals feel constantly undervalued and frustrated. This problem needs to be addressed because at the moment staff in training have the impression the work is onerous and under paid. Attraction suffers severely. Those working in the area are leaving.,” The submission said.

Executive Director of Rural & Regional Health Services Susan Heyman says the community can rest assure that 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.” 

Singleton Hospital. Source: Singleton Hospital Auxiliary