The creation of a cross-border health service covering the ACT and southern NSW has moved a step closer as Canberra specialists begin providing small country hospitals with emergency medicine training.
Emergency medicine specialists from Calvary and Canberra specialists will visit hospitals across southern NSW to train local doctors in areas such as peaediatric resuscitation and advanced vascular access and airway management. There will also be more “telemedicine" conferencing between specialists at ACT hospitals and doctors in regional NSW.
The ACT Health Directorate already provides a range of services in conjunction with the Southern NSW Local Health District.
ACT Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher said she only believed it was a matter of time until a joint ACT-Southern NSW local hospital network was created. But more joint programs would need to be developed before a full-scale merger was considered.
“I've made it no secret that's what I'd like to see happen. I've always felt that you need to build the bricks though in order to get there and that's what these programs are," Ms Gallagher said.
“They're showing people it can be done, that the sky doesn't fall in and that it means we learn from these about how we build the regional health service. I have no doubt in the future that's what the ACT and NSW system will become and it should become that. But there's a little bit more work to be done."
NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health Melinda Pavey said the NSW Government was committed to working more closely with the ACT on health issues.
“I think that the people of the ACT and NSW just expect our doctors and nurses to work without any boundaries and barriers. That's what we're working towards in NSW with Katy Gallagher and the ACT," Mrs Pavey said.
The emergency medicine training program has been funded for three years with a $1 million federal government grant. Training will be held in several hospitals, including Queanbeyan, Cooma, Moruya, Batemans' Bay and Bega.
Southern NSW Local Health District chief executive Max Alexander hoped that providing extra training and professional support opportunities to doctors in small regional hospitals would make it easier for the service to retain medical staff.
“Having a stable medical workforce is always assisted by being well supported," he said.
Dr Alexander said Queanbeyan and Yass Hospitals no longer struggled to find doctors to cover emergency department shifts. But some smaller hospital in the district were still reliant on locums.
Dr Alexander said doctors working in small country hospital emergency departments had to cope with a range of patients without quick access to specialist colleagues.
“You might have to deal with anything from neonates to head injuries. You need to be far more multi-skilled than in somewhere like the Canberra Hospital," he said.