Concerns raised over Cape York healthcare

Doctors leaving over issues


CAPE CONCERNS: Dr Sarah Edmundson, now based in Cairns, said she left Cape York because of the fragmented health service. She said without major change in the way the Cape York service is run, doctors will continue to move on quicker than is ideal.

CAPE CONCERNS: Dr Sarah Edmundson, now based in Cairns, said she left Cape York because of the fragmented health service. She said without major change in the way the Cape York service is run, doctors will continue to move on quicker than is ideal.

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An ex-Cape York doctor has spoken out about the 'fragmented' system.

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WHEN Dr Sarah Edmundson left England to work in Australia as a GP, she never knew she would fall in love with the small community of Aurukun.

At the 2017 Rural Doctors Association of Queensland Conference last week, Dr Edmundson was one of many who took advantage of a question and answer session during the medico-political forum.

Now based in Cairns, Dr Edmundson asked the panel, which included current RDAQ president Dr Michael Rice, what was being done to improve the systems currently in place in Cape York.

She was the second person to raise the issue at the forum, and said she felt the questions were not answered fully.

“People just admitted that there is a problem and has been for many, many years,” she said.

“I was there for 14 months in Aurukun, and 18 months in The Cape, and ultimately I left because of the systematic problems which exist.”

Dr Edmundson said a distinct lack of coordination between the three separate health organisations operating in Cape York had left the region “frustratingly fragmented”.

She most recently returned to the region in November as a locum, and said little had changed.

“Continuity of care was still an issue, finding medical records was still an issue, internet access was an issue, who was on call, who was covering what was still an issue,” she said. 

“Unfortunately it put me off, and Aurukun is a community I hold very close to my heart. It is very hard to see.”

Dr Rice said the RDAQ and Queensland government were well aware of the issues in Cape York, and it was disheartening to hear stories like Dr Edmundson who left because of the situation. 

“I think the issue around retention is really important, and it’s likely to be one of the signs around a health service that is not functioning as well as it could,” Dr Rice said. 

“You want people to be leaving with regret, rather than people leaving with relief… rather than feeling like they’ve made some sort of great escape.”

Both Dr Rice and Dr Edmundson agreed the region would benefit by a clinical leader being put in place. 

“Because you have three organisations, you essentially have got three leaders all directing people in different directions,” Dr Edmundson said.

“Without one person who is coordinating everything a lot of things are being duplicated, and a lot of things are being missed.” 

Dr Rice said the key would be putting in place someone who was a clinician, not an administrator. 

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