Nyssa Stadtmiller says the prospect of the last obstetrician-trained GP leaving her local area is “very scary”.
- One GP obstetrician is servicing the Young hospital, which sees around 130 to 160 babies born each year
- At one point, seven specialists covered the region
- A local family is offering to pay a $100 a week rent subsidy for a year, in the hopes of finding a new GP obstetrician
The mother-of-two is expecting her third child with husband Matt, a local councillor, in September, and has planned to give birth at the Young Health Service, on the south-west slopes of NSW.
Until earlier this year, the hospital was staffed with the services of two local obstetricians. But in March, one retired after more than three decades, leaving the town and surrounding areas reliant on one specialist and the help of a locum doctor.
So the Stadtmillers decided to fund a $100-a-week rent subsidy for a year.
Ms Stadtmiller said a rental subsidy was previously offered through the Young Shire Council, but that ceased with its amalgamation with the former Boorowa and Harden shires into the Hilltops Council in 2016.
She was “very hopeful” the offer would entice a new doctor to the region, but the prospect of the position remaining vacant and the district eventually being left without the service altogether was concerning.
For now, services are assured, with the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) providing a locum doctor for the hospital.
The MLHD cluster manager, Joanne Garlick, said it is currently advertising for a visiting medical officer for the Young Hospital.
Ms Garlick said it complements the Young Medical Centre’s advertisement for a GP obstetrician.
Fears for longevity of local obstetrics
The concern is shared by local GP anaesthetist Dr Melinda Lattimore.
She said there had previously been up to seven GP obstetricians in Young, but efforts to attract new doctors have been unsuccessful.
“They would survive, with less and less, and we’ve now hit a bit of a crisis point with only one left,” she said.
Dr Lattimore hoped the rental incentive could assist recruitment with potential trainee doctors often enquiring about subsidies.
“We were asked repeatedly ‘what can you offer me, what can you give me to entice me to come here?'” she said.
“We’re competing with so many other places and we’ve got to make ourselves competitive.”
Dr Lattimore said while the immediate future is secure, long-term there were fears the service would disappear.
More government support needed
The CEO of the Rural Doctors Association, Peta Rutherford, praised the Stadtmillers’ offer.
“It’s a highly competitive market so you do have to look for that edge … and at the moment we don’t have an oversupply of rural generalists coming into rural communities,” Ms Rutherford said.
She called for the full implementation of the National Rural Generalist Pathway as part of the solution to the shortage of doctors so that momentum on their recruitment and retention was not lost.