The recent bushfire emergency left Tumut people temporarily without easy access to emergency medical care, campaigners says
Christine Webb, the secretary of the Tumut Community Association, has written to the NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard twice in a matter of days, after bushfires cut roads and left Tumut relatively isolated.
In one letter, sent on January 9, Mrs Webb wrote: "Today we are cut off from Wagga and Canberra by road and thick smoke in the air so probably unable to get a helicopter in. For some medical emergencies such as birthing complications, helicopters are not safe.
"I have been informed that Tumut Hospital is covered by only one emergency department physician from Northern Sydney. This is outrageous. A team of doctors is required for these emergency situations such as anaesthetists for resuscitation, airway and fluid management, surgeons, emergency specialists, and others. This situation is unsafe and hazardous for the community and the Tumut Hospital staff.
"I hope there are no medical emergencies tonight. Telehealth is not sufficient when hands on life saving procedures are required and when doctors in Wagga are too busy saving lives to take the call.
"This situation is just not good enough."
Geoff Pritchard, a retired medical practitioner and Snowy Valleys councillor, said recent events were "an example of what we have feared".
Dr Pritchard said Tumut was a relatively isolated community, popular with tourists who visited for water sports as well as home to industries like forestry and milling.
He warned that icy winter conditions could also made transport from Tumut difficult.
"We have to ensure we get procedural doctors with experience in resuscitation and giving anaesthetic at Tumut Hospital," he said.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District's executive director of medical services Len Bruce said that as part of the MLHD's bushfire emergency responses "additional resources were provided to Tumut hospital which included a nurse practitioner and a general practitioner with vast emergency medicine experience".
"The situation at Tumut Hospital will be monitored on an ongoing basis and support will be provided as is required," Dr Bruce said.
"Murrumbidgee Local Health District recently implemented a virtual care model to support medical services in our rural facilities.
"The remote medical consultation service, as part of the virtual care service, is resourced across each 24-hour period to provide medical support for all general practitioner presentations across the MLHD.
"Virtual care also provides support from the critical care advisory service for all critically ill patients who require immediate assistance and transfer to specialist care centres."