Gunnedah Shire Council will fight for doctors to come to town after unanimously supporting a push for easier access to health services at Wednesday's council meeting.
All councillors supported the motions put forward, with mayor Jamie Chaffey citing that the struggle of accessing health services was something that had impacted everyone in the council chambers in some way.
The council will now work with the NSW Rural Doctors Network to develop a strategy with short, medium and long term ways to attract and retain GPs, and will also make a submission to the NSW government's parliamentary inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote NSW.
Cr Murray O'Keefe also successfully added an extra point to the original motion, which would update an existing policy to include "the provision of accommodation for doctors via subsidised rental accommodation equivalent to the current value of doctors accommodation support".
"We recently sold one of the properties we recently held so we currently have less accommodation than we did previously so it would be nice to have the ability to offer other avenues," he said at the meeting.
"We have a need for a lot more than two doctors and it would be terrible for us to be hamstrung if we weren't able to fill that need and weren't able to offer the accommodation incentives."
Cr Owen Hasler added in an extra line to the draft submission that will now be submitted to the inquiry.
The submission will now also say that "community members who are required to undertake medical check-ups by legislation (e.g. license renewal for over 75's workers compensation cases) are forced to travel out of town if they can gain appointments in other neighbouring towns".
Mayor Chaffey and Cr Hasler both said they had personally been impacted by the lack of GPs, but Cr Chaffey said it could've been worse.
"We know how detrimental this is for so many of the lives that reside in our community, but imagine if COVID had taken effect in our community," he said.
"It would've been catastrophic."
The council will draw up a strategy for 2021 that will include, alongside Cr O'Keefe's new point:
- Two meetings with Gunnedah Shire Council representatives prior to Christmas to discuss in detail all issues that have been identified by the community and council;
- NSW Rural Doctors Network to meet separately with representatives of Hunter New England Health, Northwest Family Medical Centre and Barber Street Medical Practice to identify the type of general practitioners required and the numbers required;
- Early 2021 complete the workforce plan that will include short, medium and long term actions to address all identified concerns.