A CRIPPLING shortage of paediatricians at Tamworth hospital is leaving sick children waiting on a “lottery” phone call for appointments, a local parent claims.
Belinda Jachim, whose nine-year-old son Aidan needs regular appointments for his rare genetic disorder, said she had pressed the paediatric clinic for an appointment and was informed they were “no longer taking bookings”.
Instead, they were taking names and numbers and ringing patients on a week-by-week basis, due to a shortage of doctors, Mrs Jachim was told.
“If you’re lucky you might get to see them that week,” Mrs Jachim said.
“This is disgusting that our children are being forced to wait for a phone call to see if they won the lottery for an appointment.”
Mrs Jachim said she had tried to make appointments for two and four months in advance, but was told the clinic could not “guarantee” her son would be seen at that time.
“I can’t make multiple appointments in advance,” Mrs Jachim said.
“It’s a ridiculous situation.
“The paediatric clinic has almost closed its doors ... they’re almost turning people away.”
Tamworth hospital acting general manager Wayne McMahon admitted recruiting paediatricians to regional areas was “an ongoing challenge”.
“Delays may exist for non-urgent referrals and these patients are placed on a waiting list and contacted when an appointment becomes available,” Mr McMahon said.
“All outpatient referrals are assessed based on their clinical priority and children and young people requiring urgent medical review are seen within the recommended triage time.”
The hospital employs only one full- time paediatrician, but locums and part-time paediatricians bring this to the equivalent of two full-time doctors.
The shortage is being felt at the hospital, as Hunter New England Health has recruited another full-time paediatrician to address the issue, who is expected to join the hospital in July this year.
Mrs Jachim feared for other parents with children who desperately needed regular appointments to manage their conditions.
“The next nearest specialist is over an hour away,” she said.
“I am sure I am not the only parent who is frustrated by the lack of treatment, appointments and doctors.
“Something needs to be done soon before this becomes a burden on hospitals, with more and more parents forced to attend the emergency room to be seen by a local paediatrician.”