Fresh approach to get local health system fighting fit
GAPS in Gladstone's medical services have long caused frustration for our growing community.
Finding general practitioners and attracting new doctors to town have been long running issues in Gladstone.
But in December Rio Tinto Alcan launched the new Here for Health initiative to get Gladstone's health leaders around the table and talking.
Both of Gladstone's hospitals were represented, along with GPs, primary health care workers and political players.
They identified a list of issues including:
- No united community health care plan.
- Failure to adopt a specialist partnership model.
- Lack of community education.
- Patients visiting the Gladstone Hospital emergency department with GP treatable conditions.
Six months on the committee has recruited a full-time director of medical services at Gladstone Hospital, which was left vacant for a couple of years.
In that time Dr Nicki Murdock has recruited five doctors to cover four crucial positions at the public hospital.
The Mater and Gladstone Hospital are also working closer together as a result.
GLADSTONE's two hospitals plan to work closer together to provide better health care for the community.
The collaboration of resources and staff between the two hospitals has been listed as a priority under the State Government's Blueprint for Better Health Care in Queensland.
The Mater Hospital and Gladstone Base Hospital already have sharing arrangements, including the Central Sterile Services Department, chilled water and resuscitation services.
General surgeons and consultant physicians at the Mater also provide services at the public hospital.
The hospitals also work on joint rosters to provide for anaesthetics, obstetrics and gynaecology cover out-of-hours.
In the coming months an orthopaedic surgeon employed at the Mater will work with patients in the public system.
The two hospitals are also working together to recruit two paediatricians.
"The hospitals were set up to share," Mater Hospital executive officer Peter Comerford said.
"This will give (specialists) the incentive to come to Gladstone."
As part of the Rio Tinto Alcan Here for Health initiative, the hospitals are exploring new ways of working together to improve the services.
One challenge is to provide out-of-hours GP services for Gladstone so that category 4 and 5 patients can be seen without going to the emergency department. This may involve a triage or GP clinic at the Mater.
GLADSTONE Hospital's director of medical services Nicki Murdock hopes to see a 100% permanent workforce at the public hospital.
Nicki, who began work as a locum in the role in December, has recruited five staff across four new positions.
In the next three months the hospital is expected to see the arrival of two senior medical officers for the emergency department, two senior medical officers in anaesthetics and one senior medical officer, with a department yet to be determined, also arriving shortly.
We recognise that people want more services, but we have to be careful with how we spend our money.
Nicki, a qualified paediatrician, also oversees clinical services at the hospital, which she says is, "common, but in some ways it's quite unusual" for a person in her position.
Most mornings Nicki attends the handover meetings with ward staff.
"I don't have to do it but I like to do it," she says.
"It's your way to find out what's going on in your hospital".
After moving from a management position at the Royal Children's Hospital Brisbane, Nicki spent six months as a locum doctor before jumping into the executive director and director of medical service positions at Gladstone Hospital.
She also tried her hand in managing regional hospitals, with an eight-month stint as director of medical services at Roma Hospital.
Nicki is a key member of Rio Tinto Alcan's Here for Health Care committee.
The team has been working since December last year to form a single health plan for Gladstone, across all medical providers.
"We are looking at the problems together and looking at how we address the issue as a group," Nicki said.
One solution includes trying to recruit more specialist doctors to Gladstone Hospital.
"We recognise that people want more services, but we have to be careful with how we spend our money," Nicki said.
An over-reliance of locum, or temporary doctors, has also come into equation.
"There are lots of locums working here... but they are a necessity," Nicki said.
Nicki plans on building Gladstone Hospital into a centre for teaching and training in regional medicine.