Medical changes for Central West

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Dr Karyn Matterson joins Blackall Hospital as Director of Medical Services and Dr Welwyn Aw-Yong has been appointed to the position in Barcaldine permanently.

A new Director of Medical Services at Blackall Hospital is one of seven new doctors joining the Central West Hospital and Health Service early next year.

In addition, Barcaldine Multipurpose Health Service’s current Acting Director of Medical Services, Dr Welwyn Aw-Yong has been appointed to the position permanently.

Dr Aw-Yong had been acting in the position since December 2021.

Central West Health General Manager Acute Health Services Karen McLellan said the Director of Medical Services position at Blackall Hospital had been vacant and filled by locum doctors since the departure of the last full-time director, Dr Kieran Le Plastrier, in February 2022.

“I’d like to congratulate Dr Aw-Yong on his permanent appointment at Barcaldine, which took effect from 4 December,’’ she said.

“I’d also like to welcome our seven new doctors joining us early next year, including Dr Karyn Matterson as the new Director of Medical Services at Blackall.

“Dr Matterson will take up her appointment at Blackall on 5 February next year and brings with her a wealth of experience as a Rural Generalist practitioner.

“She has worked in rural hospitals and Aboriginal medical practices across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.

“She was also an aviation medical officer with the Royal Australian Air Force for 11 years.

“She is a passionate champion of accessible primary health care for all Australians, all of the time.’’

The other six doctors joining the health service include four Senior Medical Officers going to Longreach Hospital, and one Senior Medical Officer each going to Blackall Hospital and Barcaldine Multipurpose Health Service.

Dr Matterson said she and husband Simon were looking forward to moving to Blackall and becoming part of the community.

As well her day-to-day medical work, Dr Matterson is the President of General Practice Registrars Australia.

“It’s a passion of mine to attract new young doctors into general practice and into rural generalist practice,’’ she said.

“They are the future of the medical workforce here in Queensland and throughout Australia.’’

As well her General Practice Registrars Australia presidency, Dr Matterson also is an advisor to a project led by the Brisbane North Primary Health Network aimed at mapping where in Queensland a future medical workforce would be needed.

Central West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr David Walker said he was sure the community would join the health service in welcoming Dr Matterson and the other new medical staff to the region and making them feel at home.

“I’d also like to congratulate Dr Aw-Yong on his permanent appointment at Barcaldine.

“He began his journey with Central West Health as a Senior Medical Officer in February 2018 and earned his Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine in 2020, before taking on the role of Acting Director of Medical Services in December 2021.

“Dr Aw-Yong is dedicated to mentoring and training the next wave of rural doctors, especially for the community of Barcaldine.

“His approach as a medical administrator is hands-on, staying closely connected with the realities and challenges of rural healthcare.

“Recruiting and retaining senior medical officers with the additional skills and personal mindset needed to work in country towns has become increasingly difficult in recent years, with shortages experienced across many remote services.

“So we are very happy to have attracted seven new doctors to our region.

“Pre-pandemic, the Central West was very much regarded as an attractive place for doctors to work, train, and get valuable experience in rural and remote medicine.

“This reputation has stood us in good stead as five of the seven new doctors joining us actually spent time here in the Central West on student placements during their medical degree studies.’’

Dr Walker said all senior doctors worked as part of a single Central West Health-wide medical pool servicing local hospitals, health centres and GP practices.

“This allows them, as a team, to provide patients with a higher level of care, as well as allowing them to support each other and cover each other’s leave without less need for us to use external locums to fill any short-term gaps in the workforce,’’ he said.

“It also allows us to provide patient centred clinical care that is delivered by appropriately skilled clinicians, in a timely fashion, as close to home as is safe.

“Just as importantly, having such a pool of senior and highly skilled doctors has given Central West Health the capacity to host, teach and supervise the next generation of young doctors.

“Indeed, it’s our capacity to attract such a pool of senior and highly skilled doctors that enables Central West Health to host, teach and supervise the next generation of young doctors, as we do
every year.

“Each year, we host a number of James Cook University medical students who combine clinical activity here in the Central West with their study regime for periods of between three and 12 months throughout the year.

“We also host medical students from other universities across Australia, and these students generally participate in shorter rotations of between two and six weeks throughout the year.

“Medical student placements in Central West are a great way of introducing the future generation of doctors to the benefits and advantages of working in rural practice.

“Once these young medical students complete their training, they are much more inclined to consider coming back and continuing their careers with the Central West HHS in the future.’’