Hunter New England Health has assured the community they can continue to receive appropriate medical care at Inverell hospital.
A spokesperson for the Hunter New England Local Heath District said it did not proactively communicate medical coverage to the community as it could change quickly.
"Communicating gaps in medical coverage could deter people from seeking care," the spokesperson said.
"We encourage the Inverell community to continue to present to their local ED, where our staff will ensure they receive the care they need at Inverell or another hospital within the district's network."
They explained that specialist support was available from Armidale hospital via 'virtual care' to ensure patients receive appropriate medical care.
"Virtual Care services are designed to assist doctors and nurses in regional communities, not to replace them. It assists medical staff when specialist clinical expertise is required in the management of patient care," the spokesperson added.
"In rural and remote areas, local hospitals such as Inverell provide first-line treatment, resuscitation and transfer to specialist trauma services for a higher level of care. These patients will be transferred regardless of the presence of a doctor on site. Local GPs also often offer their support in these situations and attend the hospital to assist."
The spokesperson said the recruitment of doctors to regional areas was a long-standing challenge, not only for Hunter New England Local Health District, but for all of Australia.
"Where the federal government can't ensure GP availability and support in local communities, the state works with primary care providers and the primary health care network to find alternative solutions to medical workforce shortages, which includes the engagement of locum doctors," they said.
"Inverell hospital has a contract with Medical Directions Australia to provide medical officers for Inverell hospital's ED and GP Fast Track Clinic. In the event MDA advise it is unable to provide a doctor for any given shift, the district takes every possible measure to source a locum doctor.
"Due to circumstances out of the district's control, sometimes there are gaps in medical coverage that cannot be filled, despite making every possible attempt to secure a doctor.
"Locum medical officers have been increasingly challenging to secure during the COVID-19 pandemic due to border closures and COVID-19 related activity across private and public health sectors.
"All of HNE's rural and regional hospitals have robust Business Continuity Plans in place in the instance that medical coverage is not available onsite or if patients need a higher level of care for more complex presentations."
Between mid-2012 and mid-2021 the Hunter New England Local Health District increased its workforce by an additional 1633 full time equivalent staff - an increase of 15.5 per cent including 400 more doctors, 905 more nurses and midwives, and 156 more allied health staff.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.