Glen Innes council has called for more doctors – but the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are divided on how to achieve that.
Mayor Steve Toms said the community had “clearly spoken” and it wanted “increased medical and health services”.
But he favours a more consensual approach, working with the Hunter New England health authority, the local health committee and local doctors.
His deputy, Carol Sparks, on the other hand, wants a much more up-front public campaign of lobbying MPs and ministers. She would be presenting the petition she and her fellow Greens organised to local MP, Adam Marshall, at the end of this week.
The petition which is now nearing 2,000 signatures (a significant proportion of the population of the town) calls for a permanent doctor on site at the hospital.
Deputy Mayor Sparks said: “I will be continuing to ask the question: ‘How Much is it costing to NOT have a Doctor on duty 24 hours at Glen Innes and Emmaville hospitals’?”
At the moment, local GPs serve the hospital but at weekends doctors are often flown in from Sydney and paid $5000 for the weekend’s work.
At their meeting last week, councillors agreed unanimously that GPs work hard and serve the community well. The system may be to blame but not the individuals, was the view.
Another councillor, Andrew Parsons, said the pressing problem was recruiting new GPs: “One of our biggest threats is that we have an ageing doctor workforce”, he said.
He said Glen Innes Hospital was “looking like a transfer station” because so many patients had to be transferred to Armidale or Tamworth.
There is irritation within the Glen Innes medical community about the publicity surrounding the debate. One person close to a GP has been heard berating people about it. The management at the hospital doesn’t comment to the media..