Dr Simon Holliday has opened a HealthHub in Taree. Here’s his story.
“40 years ago, I entered innovative Newcastle University Medical School. It was inspired by the World Health Organisation’s ideals of building a better medical workforce. The Medical School prioritised the art of communicating with patients and understanding each patient’s family and social context. Also it focused on scientific rigor in life-long learning. One innovation was admitting only half of the students on solely academic performance. Half were selected on psycho-social factors, including me.
This is the same vision that my wife Helen and I and our team hope will underpin the Manning Valley’s newly opened HealthHub.
We hope it will be a source of healing for the area where patients will feel calm, comfortable and respected. Where people can trust that they will not be judged on the basis of boundaries such as race, religion, sexual preference, poverty, mental health or addictions.
We aspire to excellence in standards of care. To do this we need to recruit and retain the right people, maintain a supportive culture, and assist doctors, nurses and the admin team to succeed in career development and success in examinations.
We are involved in research projects with Sydney and Newcastle Universities and planning another with the Hunter Integrated Pain Service.
As well as running profitable and sustainable private practices we look to improve health outcomes for our individual patients as well as within the whole community. We aspire to achieve better connections to the hospital sector as well as with health regulators. We need excellent hospitals but these need to be supported by clinical and political leadership who will do battle with the city-based lobbyists and bean-counters.
Our area certainly has enormous health needs. The NSW Council of Social Services released a paper mapping economic disadvantage. In Sydney 12% of the population live below the poverty line but this rate is 22.2% in Taree: one of the highest in the state. They estimated our unemployment rate was 11% with half of these unemployed living in poverty.
This year, our Lyne electorate was identified in “the Cost of Pain in Australia report” as having the highest rate of chronic pain in the nation. Other sources say our electorate or region tops the whole country in rates of strokes and proportion of elderly residents.
The 2019 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report on rural health found those living in the Bush have shorter lives, higher levels of disease and injury and poorer access to health services. This may be due to poorer education and employment opportunities, as well as a lack of access to health services.
One would imagine that our Governments would be scurrying to ensure appropriate health services were brought in. Alas, the inverse care law rules. This was described by Professor Julian Tudor Hart in 1971. The inverse care law states that the availability of good medical or social care tends to vary inversely with the need of the population served. And so it is here.
Moving here has been a titanic effort, but there is incredible talent in the Manning Valley. We didn’t have to use Sydney people; we used all local people to put the whole our HealthHub together.
All the staff volunteered their time above and beyond the call of duty to ensure we could close as Albert St Medical Centre on Friday and open as the HealthHub on the Monday.
We welcome Dr Raj here from South Africa and thank Dr David Gillespie and his staffer Tony Jiwan for assisting us in smoothing his way here.
In Taree, like all of rural Australia, almost all our Australian trained doctors are eligible to enter housing for the over 55’s. Taree would be lost without our International Medical Graduates. These doctors have had to spend years and tens of thousands of dollars to pass the required demanding language and clinical examinations to get registered. Then they must spend ten years in hospital or outside the city areas. They often work on a “fly-in-fly-out” basis because their spouse has a career and cannot get such highly specialised work in rural areas.
It is difficult for them to deal with the “non-system” we have; where Federal Immigration and Health Authorities don’t coordinate together, let alone with state authorities. People in the bush want good care but they want to get to know their doctor and not always have to get to know a new one because of our system.
Opening our HealthHub is a great day for our patients and I hope it’s a great day for the Manning Valley community, who have been so supportive of Helen and me working here and raising our family.”
Dr Simon Holliday