Rural and Remote Medical Services (RARMS) CEO, Mark Burdack, has welcomed Dr Ali Attia as the new GP and Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) in Tenterfield. The charity RARMS opened its newest rural medical centre in Tenterfield on Monday (22 March 2021) at Naas St.
Dr Ali was previously a permanent GP/VMO with RARMS in Bourke until he decided to relocate following changes to hospital services in Bourke.
Commenting on his decision to work in rural and remote communities Dr Ali said: “I grew up in Egypt. For my family and I, communities like Bourke felt much more like home. People are friendly and cared for each other, and the scale of the town was more familiar. For me big cities like Sydney are very foreign” he said.
“I am much more comfortable working in a friendly rural and remote community. I have 3 beautiful kids and they really enjoyed the local school and growing up in a small Australian town" said Dr Åli.
When the Western NSW Local Health District decided to transfer delivery of VMO services from RARMS to a private company in Bourke, Dr Ali told RARMS he would like to remain with RARMS.
“I really like working with RARMS. They are great team and as a not-for-profit organisation, they put 100% of their effort and resources into supporting rural communities that have struggled to secure medical and nursing workforce.
“Over the last 20 years RARMS has worked in places that would simply have lost their local GP and hospital without them. I don’t think many people really know how important RARMS has been in helping so many rural towns maintain their health and hospital services.
“They now provide access to medical care for more than a quarter of million people in rural and remote NSW” said Dr Ali .
RARMS paid for Dr Ali to spend a week working in Tenterfield to get a feel for the community after discussions with the Hunter New England Local Health District and Local Member Janelle Saffin MP about the challenges facing the local community. He and his family immediately started looking for a home.
“The Tenterfield Hospital is a great facility and the staff are so professional and caring. There was a real sense of community in Tenterfield that was very welcoming” said Dr Ali .
Dr Ali commenced VMO duties in the Tenterfield Hospital emergency department on 1 March 2021 and his appointment book was already filling up with patients in general practice at the Naas St Community Medical Centre commencing 22 March 2021.
Within one day however rising flood waters threatened to cut off the Hospital (where the Medical Centre is located) and the new medical Centre had to be evacuated. Travel to the Centre was also dangerous for patients with flood conditions worsening and RARMS wanted to ensure we could limit unnecessary travel as much as possible.
Along with the new Practice Nurse Anne Roberts, Dr Ali switched over services to enable patients to see the doctor from home using our health access systems.
RARMS CEO Mr Burdack said: “RARMS has worked in rural and remote communities for 20 years, so we have a lot of knowledge and experience in working with rural towns and dealing with things like fire, drought and floods.
"We have designed our systems to provide continuity of practice in a wide range of situations unique to rural and remote communities.
"Our experience in rural and remote health gives us an edge in being able to deal with situations like this which is why our communities have enjoyed continuous on-site medical care over the last 20 years" said Mr Burdack.
The farewell party thrown by the community in Bourke for Dr Ali was a testament to the high regard he and RARMS was held.
“I know this was a really big decision for Dr Ali and his family to leave Bourke as its permanent GP, a town they loved, after so many years. But his passion for ensuring communities have access to both on-site emergency and primary health care services is a great gain for Tenterfield" said Mr Burdack.
“As a charity, our goal since we were formed is to work with communities to improve health and access to health and medical services.
“We rely on exceptional doctors like Dr Ali , and the strong support of the local community and the Local Health District, to ensure rural and remote communities have sustainable health services in the long term.
“And frankly, its nice to know if I had a car accident on the way to Tenterfield that I will have a real doctor in a real emergency department to care for me in Tenterfield, and I know that is what the communities also want.
“This has been such a seamless project for us. I have been so impressed with the staff of Hunter New England Local Health District and the support of the local community and local Member Janelle Saffin MP.
“Running big health districts like Hunter New England is a complex and difficult job and the staff rarely get recognised for all the lives they save, but it is nice to know we are partnered with people who care about the community as much as we do” said Mr Burdack.
Rural and Remote Medical Services (RARMS) was established in 2001 as a charity by a group of dedicated rural and remote GPs, alongside local communities, to develop a new model of sustainable rural and remote medical care that now delivers services to more than 22,000 people across 10 locations. RARMS HealthAccess service provides access to health and medical care to a catchment of 250,000 people across 33 towns in southern NSW. For more information about RARMS go to www.ruralandremotehealth.org.au and for appointments starting 22 March 2021 go to www.rarms.org.au/tenterfield.