In praise of permanent doctors

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Last year, 2020, done and dusted.

Oh what a year!

For our family, the move to the mighty Waitaki and the seaside village of Oamaru (or the new Riviera of the South) has been a delight.

Waking up to the sea and sun, it can’t be that bad!

Since the last Your Hospital update, a lot has happened, and pleasingly towards making Oamaru Hospital the best little rural hospital in New Zealand.

If you are wandering the streets, look out for some new Oamaruvians who have recently joined Waitaki District Health Services. We have a new money man in Kelvin, who, along with wife Debbie, settled in town recently.

Dr Suraj, a medical officer and aspiring farmer (his family has bought a lifestyle block), also hit Oamaru late last year.

Dr Theresia re-joined our team along with Dr Greg, both rural hospital medicine specialists.

Lastly, Dr Scott (an emergency consultant), Mel and Maggie (their turbo charged 2-year-old) are settling in Kakanui this week.

And, watch this space . . . more new docs to come! Look out for some profiles in upcoming editions of the Oamaru Mail.

Why are permanent doctors important to Oamaru Hospital?

They help us balance our books, but far more importantly, and as Julie Andrews sang (a little creative license on order of the lyrics): “Getting to know you . . . getting to know all about you . . . things I’m learning about you . . . day by day”.

Hats off to our locums, but when you are in and then gone, continuity of care is very difficult.

On a completely different note, we are in the early stages of discussing how Oamaru Hospital may look in the future.

One thing we do know is that we need to shift from being a hospital at the bottom of a cliff, to working alongside our healthcare partners and you, our community, to keep people well and, where possible, out of hospital – easy to say, harder to pull off.

Part of this discussion, which will also, in time, involve us talking to you, includes topics as diverse as New Zealand’s health and disability structure review, the changing shape and needs of our Waitaki community, to telehealth (remote advice using tech), drones (delivering medications) and wearable devices that can monitor health and well-being.

Sometimes thinking about it makes my head hurt, but also the future, if we navigate it wisely, will be incredibly exciting for rural healthcare.

Before I forget, a massive thank you to all who attended our open day at the end of November and to all our volunteers. It cannot be your hospital without letting you experience it.

And a reminder – we all read about the worrying developments worldwide in Covid-19. We need to stay vigilant, and keep up the amazing work we have done in improving basic hygiene (hand washing goes a long way). If you are feeling unwell, contact Healthline for direction, and keep up that NZCovid Tracer app use for contact tracing.

Next month’s column will be a spotlight on our services – starting with district nurses and radiology.

Phil Jamieson is the chief executive of Waitaki District Health Services