LOCUM DOCTOR FORCED OFF ARMIDALE HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROSTER

Thursday, 29 June 2023

ANOTHER day, another crisis brought to you by Hunter New England Health District – prompting Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall to again demand answers from the State Government – this time about the staffing of the Armidale Hospital Emergency Department.

Mr Marshall learned this week that a hardworking and regular locum doctor, who has been instrumental in filling the gaps at the Armidale Hospital Emergency Department for more than a year, was given his marching orders recently.

The MP believes the reason given to the locum doctor was spurious and a convenient avenue to discard the doctor who has raised serious concerns about the administration of the hospital and rostering issues.

“The Armidale Hospital Emergency Department has a high number of vacancies for doctors, with only a fraction of the 12 FTE positions filled by a permanent employee,” Mr Marshall said.

“There is a state-wide shortage of doctors and so I accept there will be some vacant positions – however, that leaves the hospital reliant on locum doctors who step in to fill those vacancies.

“I have learned that one of the regular locum doctors, who has been a stalwart of that emergency department for more than a year, has just been booted by Hunter New England Health.

“The claim relied upon by the department heads is that, as the doctor has worked more than 13 weeks as a locum this contravenes employment policies, which the doctor asserts is in error.

“This doctor has, every week for the past year, fill four vitally important night shifts each week at the Armidale Hospital Emergency Department, positions that would likely be difficult to fill with another locum.”

Mr Marshall said that ideally the full-time and permanent doctors positions currently vacant at Armidale Hospital would be filled by eager recruits.

He acknowledged that shortages of available and willing practitioners left the locum solution as the only one to keep our hospitals open and providing top-class care.

“Without that option, Armidale and other hospitals in our region become a waiting room for Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital,” Mr Marshall said.

“I am deeply concerned that Hunter New England Health have taken this step to cancel out the services of a fantastic doctor who has been doing a great job by all report.

“The policy reasons are not as cut and died as they appear and that is why I have asked the Minster for Health to intervene and investigate this incident as a matter of urgency.

“The locum has been given notice that in five weeks, employment at Armidale Hospital will no longer be available, and as the doctor is as keen as mustard to continue serving this community, we should be rolling out the welcome mat, not slamming the door.”

The Minister has 35 calendar days to answer Mr Marshall’s question, although he hopes action will be taken sooner.

 

Mr Marshall’s question, placed on the Notice Paper:

My question is to the Minister for Health:

In relation to the employment by Hunter New England Health District of locum doctors at the Armidale Hospital to fill ongoing vacancies –

  1. Can you confirm that Hunter New England Health has terminated the employment of a doctor as a long-term locum in the Armidale Hospital Emergency department?
  2. If yes, please advise why Hunter New England Health has taken the step of terminating his locum employment?
  3. Will NSW Health acknowledge the termination of that doctor’s regular locum employment leaves the hospital critically short staffed?
  4. Will NSW Health acknowledge that the termination of that doctor’s locum employment is in contravention of the Health industry status of employment award which clearly says a temporary employee can continue work without defaulting to a permanent staff member status in the absence of any existing permanent employees to fill the role?
  5. Will NSW Health provide the number of FTE vacancies for doctors in the Armidale Hospital Emergency Department.

Asked on 28 June 2023. Answer due on 2 August 2023.

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