Health Service addresses queries over VMO rights

Cobar Health Service Manager Mary Urquhart has publicly addressed growing questions from the community about Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) rights for local GPs in our new hospital.

On behalf of the Cobar Health Council, Mrs Urquhart updated Cobar Shire Council at Thursday night’s Ordinary Council Meeting on the matter.

In an effort to keep communication lines open, council invites the Cobar Health Council to make presentations twice a year to council, with councillors supplying a list of questions for the health council to answer as part of their presentation.

Mrs Urquhart said a number of questions asked by councillors have been repetitive.  At last week’s meeting she gave an overview of how GP’s/Visiting Medical Officers (VMO’s) are recruited.

“GP’s that come to town can apply to the Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) for VMO rights at the hospital.

“The steps are: complete the application paperwork; be interviewed and credentialed by two representatives of MADAAC (Medical and Dental Appointment Advisory Committee), a job specialist (another GP/VMO), the Health Service Manager and a member of the health council.

“There is approximately 9-10 questions including 3-4 clinical scenario questions.

“The decision can be: full GP/VMO rights granted; a trial with supervision; or no GP/VMO rights obtained,” Mrs Urquhart explained.

Council asked Mrs Urquhart if local GPs readily visit their admitted patients, and if  there is a willingness to do so.

“GPs cannot visit their admitted patients medically unless they have VMO rights,” she said.

“The GPs are more than welcome to visit their patient in the hospital but cannot make change or comment on medical treatment as they do not have VMO rights.”

Council asked who is in charge of treatment once a person is admitted – the person’s local GP or the resident locum?

Admitted patients care is looked after by: the doctor on call who admitted them; by the GP/VMO if they are admitted under them; or, if referred by a GP without VMO rights, the patient is assessed by the doctor on call (locum) to determine if there is a need for admission and be treated by them if admitted.”

Mrs Urquhart advised if urgent care is required, the patient will be treated by the doctor on call.

Council also questioned the obligation of a resident locum to see a person when they
present, and their expected hours of attendance.

“It depends on the acuity of the patient and the workload of the doctor in the previous 24 hours as there is a fatigue management plan in place to avoid burn out,” Mrs Urquhart explained.

“All patients are triaged using the Australasian triage score by the registered nurses to determine the level of urgency.”

She advised the locums are accountable to the Health Service Manager, Director of Rural Medical Services of the LHD, APHRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency), the LHD Clinical Governance Unit and MADAAC.

Mrs Urquhart said there was no set number of GP/VMO’s for the facility.

“Any GP can apply and go through the credentialing process and be a part of the VMO roster equally with other VMOs.”

She explained that GP’s cannot be included on the on call roster unless they have VMO rights.

Mrs Urquhart also spoke about the new RG NET education course to upskill nurses.

She said it had been welcomed by all nurses across the LHD.