GP's strike to protest workload

DORRIGO doctors Horst Herb and his part-time colleague Ruth Lenehan are on strike.

It's an extreme step Dr Herb said he would rather not have taken but faced with ongoing stress and fatigue felt he had no choice.

“We've been waiting since March for the NSW Medical Board to assess the application of an additional doctor for the town,” Dr Herb said.

“The delays are being caused by bureaucrats and silly rules.

“We have repeatedly told them we are getting desperate but they keep procrastinating.

“It feels like a donkey pulling an overloaded cart with the carrot continually being pulled away just as it's within reach.”

Worse, it's already taken six years of searching to find the right person for the job.

“Finding a doctor with the right mix of general practice and emergency care skills is one thing. Then they have to have a family who are willing to live in a small country town – it's not easy.

“Now we've found a most competent overseas-trained doctor, the first person with enough qualifications, who's in Sydney and ready to come here.

“It's such a silly situation.”

The NSW Medical Board is responsible for the registration of doctors wanting to practise in NSW.

Dr Herb said while he understood the board's responsibilities and sympathised, the fact there was no form of indemnity covering board members resulted in them being overly cautious.

“The system needs changing,” he said.

“I was unable to attend my mother's funeral overseas, I can't go to medical training courses because no locums can be found.

“I like my job but when you have no time for patients and no normal working hours, it takes its toll – fatigue affects us, like anybody else.

“We will stay on strike until we have a written guarantee how things will happen from here.”

The Federal Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsukyer, and the State Member for Oxley, Andrew Stoner, were both demanding urgent intervention yesterday.

“It is unacceptable that the NSW Medical Board continues to delay making its decision,” Mr Stoner said.

“I have sought the immediate intervention of the NSW Health minister, Reba Meagher, to halt these assessment delays.”

North Coast Area Health Service executive director of clinical operations, Denice Fletcher, said while it was not the role of NCAHS to advocate to the NSW Medical Board, the service had indicated its support through the Dorrigo Medical Centre and regretted the delays.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Medical Board said while the board could not discuss individual cases, it was aware of the situation and sympathised with the Dorrigo doctors and other doctors in similar situations.

“The board has a serious responsibility to make sure all practitioners are suitable for registration,” she said.

“We hope to resolve the situation at a meeting next week.”

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