"Recruitment and retainment of quality health professionals is the biggest challenge" for Manning Hospital, according to the new chair of the Manning Hospital Medical Staff Council, Dr Krishan Gupta.
Dr Gupta is the singular voice among Manning Hospital medical professionals who can discuss hospital issues with the media and advocate priorities to hospital management, Hunter New England Local Health District, State MP Stephen Bromhead and Federal MP David Gillespie.
It's a role vacated by Dr Sesh Narasimhan and one that gives him the scope to identify issues impacting service delivery and staff, engage with the community, and work with management to determine funding priorities and to effect change.
It also places him in the line of sight of health advocacy groups and individuals who continue to consistently spotlight hospital service delivery issues and fight for greater government funding to secure equipment and additional staff. It's a position that requires diplomacy, commitment and the capacity to manage the expectations of his colleagues and the community.
"The community and the patients are very passionate about their hospital, and they really acknowledge the work we are doing, and I really feel blessed," Dr Gupta said.
"I put my hat in the ring because I'm very passionate about it, and I thought I could make a difference."
I put my hat in the ring because I'm very passionate about it, and I thought I could make a difference.Dr Krishan Gupta
He is not new to the area, and doesn't plan on moving.
He has been caring for patients at Manning Hospital for more than five years and says: "I don't think I am going to leave this place until I retire - this is how I feel about this place and community."
Dr Gupta says "recruitment and retainment of quality health professionals is the biggest challenge" and stresses that "we are not inferior to any regional hospital."
"I have worked in other regional hospitals in NSW and Queensland and the recruitment and retainment of quality staff is a common theme and problem."
Before accepting the position of general physician visiting medical officer at Manning Hospital, he worked at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle for about eight years, and says, "my idea about Taree was that it was a secondment hospital for me - I'll go there for a bit of training, and then come back.
"I had heard about the friendly environment, and that's typical of a regional hospital, everyone is approachable.
"I found a great work/life balance in this community, I have great work satisfaction and my family is happy.
"My family moved with me from day one and the quality of the school education is beyond my expectation, and I did not expect that - we were apprehensive about the schools."
Dr Gupta intends to draw from his lived experience of recruitment to Manning Hospital to inform his goal of better marketing Manning Hospital to medical colleagues.
"Having spoken to my friends and colleagues elsewhere, it's very hard to sell this place," he said.
If we want to recruit and retain quality medical professionals we really need to serve this hospital and area on a platter, to show them - look, this is what we are, this is what we can offer.Krishan Gupta
"If we want to recruit and retain quality medical professionals we really need to serve this hospital and area on a platter, to show them - look, this is what we are, this is what we can offer.
"The first thing I would do if I was looking to work somewhere is to jump on Google and have a look at what the town is offering, to see what there is for me outside of work. I can easily get information on my workplace, but to make the choice to relocate I really want to know what else I can do - all work and no play is not how I want to live.
"We also need to improve the social fabric of this town because people are not just coming here to work - we have to show them our community, that there are activities they can do, that there are people who are passionate about sport - cricket, soccer - we need to tell them that these are available because it is critical to our ability to retain them."
Dr Gupta believes the region needs to better promote all of the elements that make up the social fabric of our community, such as sport.
"There are so many different dynamics that need to be addressed, including the problem of getting work for the spouse, as unfortunately job vacancies are not as high in regional areas."
Dr Gupta sees second, third and fourth year medical students, and junior doctors, as a potential source for recruitment.
"I am also a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle Rural Clinical School and the students who come here - the second, third and fourth year students - they go back and talk up the quality of education and teaching that they get here, and similarly, the junior doctors that we train.
"So if we give them a supportive work environment, engage them in our community, then there is no reason why they won't come back."
Dr Gupta says the management team at Manning Hospital is supportive of his goal to improve the hospital's web presence, "they are open and they have shown commitment, and I've seen that in their actions."
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