Transition Medical were contacted by a rural farmer and local community member to assist the rural town of Wudinna to find a GP. The community of 600 people had been without a doctor for almost 2 years. Patients were having to either drive 2 hours to the nearest GP or fly to Adelaide for treatment.
Dr Ernest Wong, a newly qualified UK trained GP signed up for this amazing experience of being the only rural GP doctor in the town. Ernest started work in October 2023 and has put together this wonderful picture of life as a rural GP in Australia. We loved working with Ernest and the team at Wudinna and his placement there has made such a huge difference to the local community.
Happy Reading! Emma Cook, MD Transition Medical.
Dr Scott Lewis, my GP supervisor, flew me out in his plane to the tiny town of 600 people. This was our third flight together and he still hasn’t told me where the parachutes are. I tried not to think too much about that, instead focusing on the excitement of things to come.
Dr Ernest Wong and his Supervisor
I was going to be the new and only doctor in a grain and cattle farming community in a district which covered an area five times the size of London. Besides being the GP for the community, the role also includes providing cover for the local A&E (2 trolleys), acute hospital (8 beds) and nursing home (10 beds).
Wudinna Hospital – If you need a CT scan? The nearest one is 200 km (125 miles) away!
Having arrived in summertime (harvest season), the days are hot and the nights cool. The climate is a hot mediterranean climate that reminded me of Spain.
Not-so-subtle signs that this is a farming community.
Just as we got to the hospital, a paramedic was transporting an elderly patient to the air ambulance (Royal Australian Flying Doctors). I wasn’t expecting Scott to say; “Oh by the way, she (paramedic) is the mayor”. Turns out all the paramedics in town are volunteers! Such is the realities of rural life – everyone must pull together to survive.
The mayor is also a part-time columnist.
In my first clinic I was confronted by my biggest challenge yet – a manual blood pressure cuff – which I had not touched in years as a doctor in England. The rest of my day was mostly bread-and-butter GP stuff – minor illness and injuries, chronic disease management, repeat prescriptions and driving license medicals – all whilst grappling with IT, Medicare billing and a gazillion drug brand names (unlike the UK, it is not mandatory to prescribe in generics).
Strangely, the work felt a lot more relaxed compared to the NHS. The tempo is much lower, there is more autonomy and patients are extremely understanding. I have been called away to emergencies several times to return to find that patients have been rescheduled, so I almost never miss lunch or leave the clinic after 5.30 pm.
Providing on-call cover for the hospital was terrifying initially but one gains confidence after a few weeks of support “just a phone call away”. Consultants in various specialities are available 24/7 for video advice and guidance. It also helps that the nurses are local and have a deep understanding of the local community.
Nothing says “straya” like spiders!
People here are tough as nails. I saw a 92-year-old man with terminal lung cancer walking into my consulting room unaided without breaking a sweat. He wanted a repeat prescription. Probably fitter than most of my 50-year-old patients in England, I thought. On the flip side, if a stoic farmer presents to A&E during harvest season, best to drop everything and attend to him as it might be something catastrophic.
The community has been welcoming, having provided me with a car and furnished house, complete with a vegetable garden planted ahead of my arrival! I have also received freshly caught fish and baked goodies from at least 4 people so far, and invitations to various social gatherings. It feels refreshing to be looking after a community who are clearly appreciative of my efforts.
I was part of a children’s school project, apparently.
Overall, I am glad to have made the Transition down under, one which would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Emma and Kirsty at Transition Medical – from their putting me in touch with the right people to their help with jumping through the numerous regulatory hurdles.