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Letters to the editor – Restoring birthing services to Bourke

Dr Clive Cawthorne. Photo TWH

The Editor Dear Sir,

For a year or so I have advocated for restoring medical and obstetric services to Bourke.

During this time, I did a presentation to Rural Medical Australia with over 1000 delegates and have really looked into this.

However it appears that only there are only two obstetric trainees this year, 3 in 2022 and 6 in 2021 so absolutely no possibility of achieving what I had hoped for at this stage. However, I believe this should be achievable long-term.

Regarding your hospital and staffing, I think you should reinstate accommodation and vehicles for staff. It would be good if both Ochre Health and the AMS worked at the hospital and shared on-call. Having worked for many years in small places 1 in 3 (or 4) on call is much nicer than 1 in 2 and more sustainable and more likely to keep doctors living and working in your region.

I think four doctors shared between Bourke and Brewarrina would work best – seeing patients in the surgeries and hospitals.

There are many reasons for not having enough doctors, including not training fit-for-purpose people – with post-graduate medical degrees the average age of graduating doctors has risen to 28 and they are less likely to be flexible in where they go, work full-time, etc.

With undergraduate degrees you can qualify by age 23, and a course is provided by Charles Sturt University which is five years with a minimum ATAR entry of 91.5 for rural students. People with a rural background are more likely to return to a rural area, however they may need to go to the big city to get some training.

For me, qualifying at 23, doing obstetrics in London and anaesthetics in Perth besides other training gave me the confidence to practice alone and in difficult emergency, difficult situations.

Perhaps the council and local community could help sponsor a local student or two to do medical training with CSU at Orange. I also understand government is waiving HECS fees for doctors working in the country.

Lastly, I have enjoyed coming to Bourke and trying to work on this, but will now move my advocacy efforts to more general entry for medical schools and training.

However, I have paid my subscription for a year to The Western Herald so will be kept aware of happenings in your area.

Yours sincerely

Dr Clive Cawthorne

Crookwell NSW


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