Attracting regional specialists

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Over the past 150 years, Orange has grown from a gold rush town with no medical services to a centre of regional medical excellence, renowned for its broad range of specialist services and providing medical care to hundreds of thousands of people across the central western region.

Key to this remarkable medical evolution was, and remains, the people – the pioneers, the nurses, the doctors, the allied health workers, the ancillary staff and the volunteers who together created an environment where professionals were supported, ideas nurtured and community activism encouraged.

Local author, Liz Edwards, has written a comprehensive and compel history of medicine in the Orange region titled “In Sickness and in Health” published by Orange City Council.

“Orange has long been regarded as a specialist medical centre, ever since Drs Neville Howse and Percy Dean Bray performed a complex eye operation in town in 1904,” Liz writes.

“In the latter half of the 20th century there was a strong will among the local medical profession to see the development of specialist services, coupled with an active encouragement of those wishing to establish specialist practices in the city,” Liz writes. “This major development, which started in the early 1970s, changed the face of medical practice in Orange and the city became the envy of many other centres in country NSW.”

Today, that nurturing, collegial atmosphere continues to attract medical professionals and specialists to the region.

Oncologists Dr Peter Fox and Dr Rob Zielinski both completed two years of medical student training in Orange and Bathurst in 2005 and returned to the region in 2013 to work as a team with Central West Cancer Services. Dr Fox says the opportunity to work in joint practice with Dr Zielinski was instrumental in his decision to return to the region.

“It would be an insurmountable burden to provide a medical oncology service as a solo practitioner in Orange,” he says.  “Rob and I trained together, and both had the desire to work in the country.  Working as team allows a more balanced work/life balance, permits holidays and attendance at international conferences without an impact on patient care.”

Dr Zielinski says his early regional training completely changed his view of rural medicine.

“It eroded many false preconceptions, but more importantly highlighted wonderful opportunities for me as a doctor but also for my future patients,” Dr Zielinski explains.

“The ability to provide equivalent cancer care to people located in rural communities and thus cut down on their need to travel to Sydney was an important motivator. The quality of medical care in places like Orange is really first rate, so I have complete confidence administering intensive treatment protocols knowing that I have the support of talented and dedicated surgeons and physicians.”

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